Painting a movement: Live HealthSmart Alabama murals in Kingston and Titusville revitalize public spaces

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“Welcome to the BBQ” is the colorful invitation featuring the newly painted grill at Stockham Park in Kingston. It’s one of the many new slogans and murals throughout the park urging community members to enjoy the space.

The new additions are part of Live HealthSmart Alabama, a UAB initiative that works with businesses and organizations to improve buildings and access to healthy food, exercise and health care in poor neighborhoods. served from Birmingham and Alabama. The initiative is led by the UAB Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center, which has partnered with Blank Space Birmingham, the Kingston Coalition and the Kingston Neighborhood Association to help revitalize Stockham Park.

Jessica Snyder, Program Manager at UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine, led the Kingston design process in the fall of 2020. Goals included creating a logo representing the union of the northern and southern neighborhoods of Kingston and a park renovation. focused on raising community voices to create open and beautiful areas that bring people together.

Bright colors add beauty to a Kingston neighborhood building. (Steve Wood / UAB)

“Everything that Live HealthSmart Alabama does is done in partnership with the community,” Snyder said. “One of the ways we got feedback was to run a text campaign where community members could tell us what values ​​were important to the people of Kingston and what they wanted for the future of their community. community, and we would incorporate their ideas into our designs. “

The Live HealthSmart Alabama team found that Kingston residents wanted to evoke a sense of unity in their neighborhood through their former high school mascot, the Eagle Pacesetter. The One Kingston wing mural was born, using abstract images of the eagle represented by a set of wings. Community members, artists and UAB students painted the park concession stand, grill and basketball courts, and added a hopscotch outline. Snyder said the bold fonts and color choices evoke the natural surroundings in an invigorated way, while matching the bold and diverse personalities of Kingston residents.

“Bright colors evoke emotions of happiness and positivity – two things we want to associate with this space,” Snyder said. “People love to look for beautiful things, and we think more people will be drawn to the park and the playground.”

The work in Kingston is emblematic of Live HealthSmart Alabama’s goals of impacting on built environments, improving community safety, encouraging the use of outdoor spaces, and energizing collective spaces to attract engagement and inspire people to think more naturally about physical activity.

Dr Mona Fouad, principal investigator of Live HealthSmart Alabama and director of the UAB Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center, explained the initiative’s initial focus on art: “These murals are a good representation of how neighborhoods can work with our UAB teams to solve problems together. If there is a problem in the community – such as access to safe places for physical activity and healthy food options – we believe the solution lies in the community as well.

Lovie Crawford, outgoing president of the Kingston Neighborhood Association, said the response from residents was encouraging.

“The overall response has been excellent in terms of unifying the community,” she said. “People are going out more in the park, and it’s nice to see. “

Titusville

Live HealthSmart Alabama has partnered with the Birmingham community of Titusville, the Titusville Development Corporation and the Titusville Coalition on a similar project to revitalize the neighborhood Memorial Park recreation center and develop a logo and slogan for the community. A ribbon cut in the center took place in September.

A mural on a building in Titusville brings the neighborhood to life. (Steve Wood / UAB)

Snyder also worked on the Titusville project, with significant input from residents and people who use the space. “Every step of the way, they provided context and feedback to make sure everything was perfect,” she said. “It was really a group effort, an effort that everyone put their hearts into. I am delighted to see the future unfold for Titusville.

The back wall of the recreation center now appears with vivid colors and interactive thought bubbles, encouraging visitors to reflect on their future and contributions to the present, with a nod to the community’s legacy in the civil rights movement. A new city logo, with the northern and southern contours of Titusville and Woodland Park, provides a visual sense of cohesion. And the slogan “Courage from our past, forging our future” echoes the important contributions of previous residents while preparing current residents for success.

This idea of ​​forward-looking progress was echoed by Ronald Bayles, executive director of the Titusville Development Corporation, a nonprofit dedicated to community revitalization, in his commentary on the impact of mural work. “Art has done two things,” he said. “It sparked the interest of people who knew that after many years of planning, the work in the community had started. And it creates a feeling of anticipation… suggesting that community work like this is not a final but a beginning.

Meghan McCollum, founder of Blank Space Birmingham, an organization dedicated to reclaiming public spaces through art projects, was involved in the mural work in Titusville and Kingston and was delighted to see the reactions of community members to at work.

“Art is done with people, not just for them,” she said. “And so, when residents who lived near where we worked brought us food and thanked us for bringing art to their communities, it was such a powerful thing.

“The murals are a very visual part of the larger work that is being done in these communities,” she added. Bright visuals and the creation of a unified community brand make it possible to create a great project with plenty of opportunities to create moments that impact people.

McCollum fondly remembers one of those moments: While working with volunteers to paint a mural, a group of children stopped to give her a hand. “And after a little while this kid named Curtis turned to me and said, ‘I think I want to be an artist when I grow up,’ McCollum said. no, it was encouraging to see him consider that as an option. I like to think that we are offering a vision of what could be – like brushstrokes of possibility.

This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.


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