GRANITE FALLS — The power of art will be harnessed in Granite Falls to make its streets safer, not to mention attention getting.
Images of botanical patterns from Dakota quilting, an emblem representing the spirit of the farmer cooperative movement, and playful depictions including a gopher pulling a canoe and a chicken crossing the road are among the colorful renditions coming soon to streets in the community.
An arts project being called “Creative Crosswalks” has now gained the formal approval it needs for professional artists and students to paint 18 to 19 large-scale art images on crosswalks in the community. The Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners approved the project on April 27, and allowed organizers to close the affected roads to traffic while the painting occurs. The Granite Falls City Council had previously approved the same for city streets.
Professional artists from the community will create works on eight crosswalks on Prentice Street in the city’s downtown. Students from the Yellow Medicine East High School and from Lakeview High School in Cottonwood will work with art instructors to create images on around 10 crosswalks on the roadways fronting the YME campus.
The theme for it all is storytelling, according to Dani Prados, artist-in-residence for the city of Granite Falls. Each image will tell a story of the area and its heritage, and not just in a visual way.
Artist Autumn Cavender-Wilson will be creating an image of Dakota botanical patterns. It incorporates moonseed, corn, chokecherry, apples and hazel, alongside river designs for white flags, speculums, moccasins and ribbon skirts. Each represents key moments in the history of this place. She will also make available oral recordings from members of the Dakota community telling their stories as part of the project.
Prados is hopeful that the other artists and students will also be able to produce audio stories about their works. The oral stories will be made available on a website. It’s hoped they could also be accessed via mobile phones for those taking walking or bicycling tours of the community.
The idea for the crosswalks projects is public safety. Prados pointed out that communities including Lydon, Kentucky, and Medford, Massachusetts, completed similar crosswalk art projects and realized dramatic declines in traffic accidents at the crosswalk locations.
Drivers slow down, and pedestrians feel safer in these public spaces.
Prados said the artwork can attract visitors while also building community pride and engagement. The project should also provide students with an opportunity to create something lasting and beautiful, she points out in promotions for the project.
Work is scheduled to begin May 25 in the area of the school, and over Memorial Day weekend in the downtown area. It’s all weather dependent.
Prados said the works will be created using the same professional grade paints as used for striping crosswalks. The manufacturer is making available a variety of colors.
City workers will prep the streets for the art using air compressors.
The artists will be able to revisit their works after about a year to do any touch-up needed as wear and tear take their toll on the works. It is the nature of this type of work that the elements and time will take their toll, Prados said.