CAPTION: Faith leaders are joined by tenants who are behind on rent and facing displacement as pandemic-era eviction protections lapse as they rally and march in the streets of New York on Aug. 31, 2021. 

(Photographs by Brittainy Newman/Brittainy Newman for NYTimes)

Assignment ID: 30259413A
Trenton Asphalt Art Initiative | Photographer: Brittainy Newman | Artist: George Bates

ASPHALT ART INITIATIVE

Create Birmingham serves as the arts partner for the City of Birmingham on a new public art project in the Smithfield neighborhood that will enhance the intersection of 8th Avenue West and Center Street, working in collaboration with the Smithfield stakeholders and local visual artist Lydia Walker.

Last year, the City of Birmingham was one of 26 cities across the country selected to receive an Asphalt Art Initiative grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The Asphalt Art Initiative is designed to fund visual art on roadways, pedestrian spaces, and public infrastructure in U.S. cities with the goal of improving street and pedestrian safety, enhancing underutilized public space, and promoting collaboration and civic engagement in local communities.

Birmingham’s Asphalt Art Initiative project seeks to activate a critical juncture of mobility, social infrastructure, and history in the Smithfield neighborhood. The intersection of 8th Avenue West and Center Street is anchored by Smithfield Court public housing and the Smithfield Branch Library. Eighth Avenue West serves as a main thoroughfare within the neighborhood and between the neighborhood and downtown, connecting residents to A.H. Parker High School and the city center. The intersection and adjacent library plaza are currently underutilized and have great potential as a community gathering space.

An image of the Birmingham project site and examples of other successful Bloomberg Philanthropies Asphalt Art Initiative public art projects from around the country can be found on this page. If you have questions regarding the project, please email us at publicart@createbirmingham.org.

ASPHALT ART INSTALLATION & PAINT PARTY: SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15 FROM 10-4

Come be a part of the Paint Party! On Saturday, October 15th, community volunteers will come together to create this asphalt art as a team in collaboration with the City of Birmingham. Lydia Walker will lead the volunteers in the installation of the intersection’s new design.

We’re looking for 25 volunteers per shift, with shifts from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, 12:00 – 2:00 pm, and 2:00 – 4:00 pm. We’ll have water for volunteers, and there will be food trucks on-site if you’d like to stay and grab a bite to eat.

You can sign up for a volunteer slot here. Volunteers will meet at the Smithfield Library and will be called a week prior to confirm. Additional details on your shift will be provided at that time. Come dressed to paint and ready to create!

In case of rain, the Paint Party will be rescheduled for October 22nd.

MEET ARTIST LYDIA WALKER

Lydia Walker has been selected as Birmingham’s Asphalt Art Initiative artist. Lydia uses art as an engine to immerse herself in community and believes that public art is a vehicle to spread uplifting messages reflective of the beauty of the City’s citizens. Lydia moved to Birmingham from Los Angeles in 2014 to attend Miles College, and she is proud to call Birmingham her home. She has shared her passion through building arts programming, creating community murals with local artists and organizations, and working as a teaching artist for Birmingham City Schools with the Birmingham Museum of Art. She recently joined the BMA as Manager of School and Community Programs.

“I am so excited to work with the Smithfield community on this project because it is a community where I have so many fond memories; from going to Legion Field every MLK Day and doing community service work to enjoying festivities like the Magic City Classic and other games! I can’t wait to collaborate with community members to design asphalt art that speaks of love, unity, and embracing our beautiful roots to everyone in Smithfield!”

Join the team on Tuesday, August 23rd from 6:00 – 7:30 pm at the Smithfield Branch Library for a community conversation with Asphalt Art Initiative artist Lydia Walker. Smithfield residents, as well as neighborhood businesses and community organizations, are invited to the Library at 1 8th Avenue West to meet Lydia as she shares her preliminary designs with the community for feedback and discussion before the community celebration and collaborative installation this October. Design options are available for community review here.

Painting the asphalt intersection and activating the library plaza with new signage, temporary furniture, and art installations will create a stronger sense of welcome. A new micro-mobility hub in front of the library and planned bike/scooter lanes along 8th Avenue West will introduce new transportation options, and a new bus shelter will increase rider comfort. These elements will work together to create a neighborhood hub. The installation process will include community participation, and project partners will plan a series of subsequent events to activate the library plaza and extend the project lifecycle.

  • February 14: Artist submissions due by 11:59 p.m.
  • March 11: Four artists selected for interviews on March 14-16
  • March 18: Final artist selection announced
  • June-August: Initial design phase in collaboration with the Department of Transportation
  • August 17: Design options available for community feedback 
  • August 23: Community meeting at Smithfield Branch Library from 6 to 7:30 pm
  • September: Permitting & site prep/Survey data & metrics collection
  •  October 15: Project installation and community block party on Saturday (Time TBA)

Pittsburgh Asphalt Art Initiative | Photographer: Sean Carroll | Artist: Tim Englehardt & Randi Stewart

The call for artists was open to qualified artists, aged 18 or over, residing in or with a demonstrable history of working in the City of Birmingham. Artists with connections to Smithfield or the surrounding neighborhoods were especially encouraged to apply. Rather than submitting site-specific proposals at this stage, artists were asked to submit qualifications via an artist statement/bio and a portfolio of previous work.

Chattanooga Asphalt Art Initiative | Photographer: Kathleen Greeson | Artist: Kevin Bate

Four artists were chosen for final consideration by the City of Birmingham and Create Birmingham based on this initial submission. Additional project details and parameters based on permitting and public safety requirements were provided for the final round of consideration. A review panel of City and Library staff, neighborhood residents, and local stakeholders made the final artist selection. 

The review criteria for both the first and final rounds can be found here.

The selected artist works with the City of Birmingham and Create Birmingham to conduct contextual site research and community engagement to inform the design of the intersection artwork. The artist partners closely with the City’s Department of Transportation and Department of Planning, Engineering and Permits, as well as Smithfield community members, which may result in design adaptation based on community feedback, traffic laws, and/or public safety restrictions. The artist also leads the installation of the artwork, along with a team of community members and project partners.

The submission form can be found here.

Along with a brief form providing contact information, artists were asked to submit an artist statement/bio. In addition to outlining qualifications, artists were asked to describe their ties to the City of Birmingham and make note of their approach to partnering with the communities in which they work.

Artists were also asked to upload 5-8 images of relevant past works and provide the following information for each: title, location, date completed, dimensions, materials, cost of project, commissioning entity (if any), and a one-sentence description noting their specific role in producing the work depicted.

Lancaster Asphalt Art Initiative | Photographer: Christopher Leaman | Artist: Fern Dannis & Peter Barber

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Norfolk Asphalt Art Initiative | Photographer: Jason Akira Somma | Artist: Mensah Bey | Assistant: Elisa Summiel