Galesburg’s south street underpass could get a facelift

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GALESBURG – One of Galesburg’s most visible and busy intersections, albeit characterless, could be in line for a cosmetic makeover.

The Galesburg Civic Art Center, with support from the City of Galesburg and the BNSF, applied for a $ 25,000 grant from the Asphalt Art Initiative that would help fund murals on the west side walls outside the South Street underpass. The initiative is a program funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Asphalt Art Initiative Grants Program is designed to fund visual art interventions on roads, pedestrian spaces, and public infrastructure in U.S. cities with the goal of:

  • Improve the safety of streets and pedestrians
  • Revitalize and activate underused public space
  • Promote collaboration and civic engagement in local communities

Tuesday Çetin, executive director of the Galesburg Civic Art Center would like to see public art projects on the city walls. But the Asphalt Art Initiative grant program caught his attention.

Çetin applied in April for one of the 20 available scholarships. The winning cities will be announced this fall and all selected projects will be installed by fall 2022. This next phase comes as the first round of 16 beneficiaries, announced in June 2020, continues to roll out its projects.

“The Asphalt Art Initiative is giving $ 25,000 to an organization to organize the beautification of a sort of desolate area,” Çetin said. “It also includes vertical cement spaces, so it seemed like a perfect project to present to them.

“Ultimately, they seek to impact different communities through the development of forgotten spaces.”

Following:The Galesburg Civic Art Center will move to a location occupied by the Galesburg Antiques Mall

Among the categories available for consideration for Asphalt Art Initiative grants are visual interventions on roads (intersections and crosswalks), pedestrian spaces (squares and sidewalks), and vertical infrastructure (service boxes, traffic barriers and underpasses).

Çetin said his proposal was to have murals on the walls on the west side of the underpass, essentially the viaduct leading to the flat parts of Seminary and South Streets.

“The $ 25,000 would help us organize local artists or a featured artist to work with our local artists to beautify this space,” she said.

Çetin said it was too early to know a theme for the murals, adding: “If the grant is awarded, we will appeal to the artists to see what they come up with in terms of ideas. Then we will move on. of the.”

Patrick Haley of Saginaw paints at the intersection of Court Street and Hamilton Street during the Great Mural Project Asphalt Mural Paint-A-Thon on September 26, 2020, in Saginaw, Michigan.

Along with the Galesburg Civic Art Center, Çetin said a community committee that would include the city, the BNSF, the South Side Task Force and the Galesburg Tourism and Visitors Bureau would help lead the project.

“I can’t speak for the whole group, but personally and according to the people I spoke to, we are very excited to be able to participate in the mural project. “said Candy Webb, a member of the South Side Task Force. “I think it would be a great addition both downtown and south.”

The underpass was originally built in 1911, then added in 1930. According to Galesburg Planning and Public Works Manager Wayne Carl, BNSF owns the structure and has no objection to painting the passage. inferior.

“I think the project would be great for Galesburg and illuminate the area of ​​the underpass as motorists enter downtown,” Carl said.

Çetin said: “Wayne Carl was very supportive, providing the letter and contacting BNSF.

“We kind of applied for the grant before owner approval, but in this case, I think everyone wants something to happen there. It’s such an empty space that doesn’t make any difference. well to our downtown, Knox College the all good community, or the all good south side community as it is now. “

Artist Brad Carney, left, and Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve paint Carney's mural,

The cities of Kansas City, Missouri, Saginaw, Michigan, and Norfolk, Virginia, installed projects in fall 2020. They transformed 20,000 square feet of combined streetscape with artwork and engaged nearly 1,000 residents and 37 artists in the design and installation. to treat. Redesigning a problematic intersection in Kansas City also reduced overall vehicle speeds by 45%, shortened pedestrian crossing distances by 50%, and increased the number of pedestrians who felt safe crossing the road by 40%. intersection.

The remaining cities, which will install their projects throughout 2021, include: Chattanooga, Tennessee; Durham, North Carolina; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Columbus, Indiana; Pittsburgh; Cincinnati; Reno, Nevada; Trenton, New Jersey; Troy, New York; Dubuque, Iowa; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Richmond, Virginia; and Calexico, California.

Following:The group aims to revitalize South Galesburg

“Bloomberg is really focused on underserved communities,” Çetin said. “Our proposal was thought out before the south side task force, but this area is certainly eligible. It’s a space that would really help connect the south side to the city center. There’s a perceived line there that we want to go beyond, and I think the art really helps fill those gaps. “

Çetin said it remains to be seen whether the grant will fully fund the project in Galesburg.

“We won’t know the final budget until an artist has been selected and materials provided, but we anticipate that additional contributions will be required – in cash or in kind,” she said. declared.

According to Bloomberg Philanthropies, these relatively inexpensive, often short-term and scalable projects can create immediate positive impact and catalyze long-term improvements in the public domain.

“We want visitors to feel comfortable downtown and know how important the arts are to our community,” Çetin said. “It’s very rare to have the vibrant arts community that we have in a city our size. If there are sculptures or murals around town that celebrate the arts, that helps.

“So absolutely, I would love to see more art projects around Galesburg. Public art is important on so many levels, whether it’s visitors, members of our community or the business community. art makes people excited about where they are, whether they’re just visiting or living there. “

Galesburg Area Tourism and Visitors Bureau director Randy Newcomb said he was okay with the project.

“It’s only in its early days, but if it were up to me, we would have murals all over town,” Newcomb said.

Çetin said his take on public art in Galesburg was not limited to the South Street Underpass project, indicating potential murals in the lanes, as well as the cinder block wall that serves as the backdrop to the Farmer’s Market. de Galesburg on East Simmons Street, as well as the wall on the south side of the old Seminary Street Pub.

“There are places all over town that I have my eye on,” she said. “But there are so many special places that it’s hard to narrow them down.”


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