Earlier this month, Living Streets Alliance had the honor of co-hosting a Block [Painting] Party with families and neighbors of Ochoa Community School and the John Valenzuela Youth Center in South Tucson. An estimated 200 students, family members and neighbors worked to enhance their school crossing with a traffic circle mural, making it beautiful and safer for kids crossing on foot and bicycle. During the block party, little feet filled the intersection of 8th Avenue and 25th Street, and with paint brushes in hand, students were excited to paint their mark on the intersection mural. With cumbia beats amplifying the festivities, adults and kids alike took to hula hooping, jump roping, and exploring the bicycle rodeo course. Luis, the father of a preschooler at Ochoa commented, “Kids don’t play in the street anymore like they used to. And it’s so good for them!”
Mel Dominguez, owner of Galeria Mitoteria in South Tucson led the painting project, working with students to design symbols and imagery that would fill the intersection mural. “I’ve been working with Ochoa students for several years now. One of the inspiring things about this school is that I hear the teachers address the students as ‘scholars.’ What a confidence boost! Knowledge is power, which is why the mural includes images of books and children reading. I wanted to incorporate that sentiment into art and remind students of that every time they cross the street.” Other images like the school’s desert tortoise (Rosie), and symbols of Aztec mythology like the Tree of Life and the Rabbit in the Moon fill the mural and liven up the street.
While the art brings a sense of place to the street, the project is actually a “quick-build” traffic circle with flex posts and planters used to delineate a traffic circle. While common neighborhood traffic circles tend to be concrete, this one is able to be installed relatively easily without breaking into the asphalt. After having seen the successful “quick build” traffic circle of their neighboring school, Mission View Elementary School earlier this year, Ochoa Community was excited to do the same treatment less than a mile away on 8th Avenue. “We love how this project both beautifies the school AND increases safety too,“ says Ms. Rosamaria Duarte-Raub, the school principal.
The Ochoa school crossing guard, Ms. Rachel lives across the street from the school and confirms that the new traffic circle is really working to slow down car drivers as they approach the school zone. Ms. Rachel also stresses, “this adds a personal touch to Ochoa because the kids and families were involved, it’s not like some outside painting crew came out and did it. And so many people turned out which really tells you something because people don’t always show up. I just love it and seeing how the community came together!”
You can view the full photo album of the Ochoa Block Party here.
There were many partners who helped to make this project a reality. Special thanks to the students, families, faculty, and neighbors of Ochoa Community School and the John Valenzuela Youth Center, Mel Dominguez of Galeria Mitoteria, The City of South Tucson, Cicli Noe, Tank’s Green Stuff 100% Organic Compost, Creatista Films, Video and Photography, Speedy Striping Inc., Pima County Health and Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation, Trees for Tucson, and City of Tucson Bicycle and Pedestrian Program. Thanks also to Vitalyst Health Foundation AZ, Tucson Osteopathic Medical Foundation and New Belgium Brewing who together helped support the purchase of materials and supplies for this project.