Asphalt Art Initiative

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Aerial view of the Asphalt Art Initiative project in Smithfield

The Asphalt Art Initiative is a community art program of the New York-based Bloomberg Philanthropies. It funds visual art on public streets and plazas with the intent of promoting civic engagement, enhancing public spaces, and improving pedestrian safety.

In 2022 the initiative funded 26 projects across the country, including a proposal submitted through Create Birmingham to enhance the intersection of Reverend Abraham Woods Jr Boulevard/8th Avenue West and Center Street outside the Smithfield Library, at the boundary between the Smithfield and Graymont neighborhoods.

Artist Lydia Walker was selected in March 2022 to design the painting in coordination with community representatives and city officials. Her proposal consisted of an 8-sided "mandala" design which incorporated West African adinkra symbols for knowledge and beauty. At the edges of the design, the names of adjacent neighborhoods were included, emphasizing the intersection's importance as a crossroads.

More than 120 volunteers participated in the execution of the artwork during a "paint party" on October 15.

The street painting was planned to coincide with the establishment of a "micromobility hub" and a covered bus shelter at the intersection, and with the installation of upgraded street lighting. Sidewalk art designed by Walker was also added to the paved plaza in front of the library.

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