By Wendy Weitzel
In 2017, Joy Klineberg thought it would be fun to help another Davis neighborhood paint a street mural. Once she did, she was hooked.
She remembered thinking, “This is so cool, Elmwood should do it too,” referring to her Central Davis neighborhood near the Church of Latter-day Saints. “Little did I understand what an undertaking it is to do such a large and public project.”
She and Judy Catambay, one of the artists who was involved in the 2017 East Davis pavement painting, got to work. In 2018, they applied for and received a $5,000 City Arts Grant. Through many setbacks and delays – including COVID – the project was finally completed on May 1.
The Elmwood Street Mural was designed with neighbors’ input in mind and included their labor, and $3,000 in cash and supply donations. The Grant funded the lead artist. The painting features an elm tree surrounded by a hexagon shape. It pays homage to Elmwood Drive’s zelkova trees, which are in the same family as the elm.
The hexagon shape evokes a stop sign. “Our street is very wide at the entry because it was originally planned as a high school site. … We often have people turn onto it speeding, thinking they are going down a throughfare, so the neighbors wanted a mural that would both welcome people into our community but also get them to stop,” Klineberg said.
They also have lots of pedestrian and bike traffic, and “we wanted to give people both a destination and a pause in their journey.”
Catambay, the lead artist on the Elmwood project, said, “The tree symbolizes the love neighbors have for the beautiful trees lining the street, along with the shadows created by the tree canopies. The hexagon symbolizes slowing down and appreciating your surroundings, and how we are connected to nature and each other. The various colors flowing through the bark symbolize diversity and again our connectedness, as we are all rooted together and branching out.”
The artist, who lives in East Davis, worked with Elmwood residents to come up with three design options. A 2019 vote determined the winner. For the recent work weekend April 29 through May 1, dozens of volunteers showed up – with about half of them from other parts of town.
“My absolute favorite part is the magic that happens when many people work together,” Catambay said, noting how it deepens neighbors’ relationships, despite differences. “There are so many steps along the way, and the entire Davis community brought it to life by sharing in the process.”
Elmwood Drive resident Edna McCoy tracks the history of the neighborhood and its houses. She wrote a thank-you note to neighbor Klineberg, conveying how the mural “adds so much soul to the neighborhood.” She called it a focal and binding point that will be enjoyed for years to come.
Catambay said it was a great project for this part of the pandemic. “It’s the perfect activity to unite the community and heal the division and isolation that many of us have experienced over the past few years.”
Davis pavement paintings
Rachel Hartsough, the City’s arts and culture manager, said once the date was set for the painting, staff members in the City’s Public Works Department realized the street was set for resurfacing, which would mean further delays. “They went through heroic efforts to get the street work done before the upcoming date, so the artist and neighbors had an incredible blank slate to work with, and the result is gorgeous!”
It was incredible timing, Catambay said. “Being able to paint on fresh asphalt made a huge difference in the striking outcome. The black background helps the colors to really pop off the road, and the longevity of the mural will certainly be extended as a result.”
She expects the mural to last a decade or more. They used StreetBond paint, designed to withstand traffic and not hinder traction. The paint requires stirring every 15 minutes while it’s open.
Klineberg was thrilled with the result. “Volunteering can be exhausting but at the end of Sunday, all of the work involved was worth it. I like leaving a physical impact on where I live – hopefully making things better because I lived there. … I want my children to understand firsthand, and actually see the value of being an active community member.”
The City of Davis Arts & Cultural Affairs Program supports community-based arts projects, cultural opportunities, and education initiatives that foster excellence, diversity and vitality in the arts. The program is the clearinghouse for all creative activity in the City of Davis government, and serves the entire Davis community. It develops community partnerships, explores best practices, manages the public art collection, and supports Civic Arts Commission initiatives. For more information, please visit: www.cityofdavis.org/arts.