By Peter White
NASHVILLE, TN – Drivers don’t speed past Amqui Elementary School in Madison on their way to Gallatin Rd. anymore. Walk Bike Nashville, artist Andee Rudloff, and a group of k-5thgraders decided to paint something beautiful so commuters would slow down. The ribbon cutting on their mural project took place last week.
They used cell phones to clock drivers’ speed and film them texting or talking on the phone so they knew they weren’t imagining the problem. Some people were zooming past the school at 75mph. The average speed was 60mph and drivers used to pass on the inside bus lane in front of Anqui Elementary. Drivers dumped trash out their windows. The situation was pretty ugly and really unsafe.
Rudloff held some brain-storming sessions with bike advocates, parents, students, and teachers to focus on the problem and imagine ways to fix it. Getting drivers to be aware of the school and more present when they passed it was the big challenge. The solution turned out to be a collective street mural painted on the ground next to the school.
“We came up with an overarching question about texting and driving, about speeding, and each of the students was asked to create a small icon based on words they would use to explain what was happening out here. I took their icons. I got, I don’t know, about 100 icons and I twisted them all together to make the design,” said Rudloff.
Over the course of a few days, third and fourth graders filled in the mural with different colors. Rudloff painted with them. The result was a coat of many colors on the street right by Amqui Elementary. The mural runs the entire length of the bus lane along Anderson Lane in front of the school.
Marques Carter, 4thGrader, painted his part of the mural imagining a person walking down the street with a sign saying ‘Stop for kids’.
“They stop to look at it. And to see how beautiful it is,” said Carter.
Zoe Johnson, 3rd-grader, painted the yellow parts. She said she doesn’t particularly like yellow but they gave her a can of paint and while she worked she imagined how it would look when it was finished. “I think it came out amazing,” she said.
Up close the mural is abstract; from a height you can see things represented inside it. It is brightly colored; it is painted on the ground and draws the eye. And it calms people down which was the main idea. “People slow down just to look at it,” said Lesoy Quijada, 4thgrader.
“Since we created this small bump out just using paint and these small little stanchions called delineators we have seen the speed slow. It’s now down between 30 and 40mph,” said Rudloff.
The children created a small mural that was turned into yard signs that say “Stop texting while driving”. Those signs will go up around the neighborhood to remind people to drive safely.
“We’ve noticed they are not on the phone and they are slowing down and they are realizing a school is here and they are realizing there could be kids out here. And I think the imagery itself is an extension of the spirit of the school. And while we were coming up with our palliative colors and how we were going to do that, we did want to say ‘Kids are here. Kids play here’,” said Rudloff.
This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Tribune