A chalk outline of a butterfly waited for the Tree Streets Mural Committee members to pick up a paint brush and slather some color onto its wings.
Nathan Brand, a member of the committee, planned the intersection’s mural for a year, and after taking one rain date, scored the opportunity to finally implement the design and launch Johnson City’s first street mural.
“We’re trying to implement this mural here in town not only to beautify this corner, but also to act as a pilot program in Johnson City,” Brand said. “This may be a traffic-calming image. This corner can be pretty intense. I live in the house on the corner, so I know.
“You have people running through stop signs or going way too fast down Pine Street, so hopefully people will slow down and look at this.”
The committee believes the street art will have a calming effect on drivers and slow them down, which might promote safety and caution at the intersection.
“A lot of major cities have implemented these street murals in lieu of speed bumps,” Brand said. “We’re going to try to gather data with this to see if it works here.”
The street art could potentially make the intersection safer for both drivers and pedestrians, but another benefit has already taken wing, thanks to the project.
“This art has really brought the community together,” Brand said. “You can see there are a lot of people here, and it’s like 9 in the morning on a Saturday. That’s one of the most exciting part about this, especially for someone like myself who is new to town and wants to be involved and make this city the great place that it always could be.”
More street murals are a possibility for Johnson City; those interested need to pitch ideas to the Public Art Committee and Johnson City Commission.
“We are trying to provide a sort of roadmap for people who would want to do this in the future,” Brand said. “We want to make it easier for anyone who wants to add any more street murals by being able to hand them a set of instructions.
“We had to gain permission from the Public Art Committee. Any public art that’s installed in the community gets run by them so they can ensure it’s in the community’s best interest. We also had to put this through to the Johnson City Commission because of the road closure.”
Brand warned that this isn’t a single-man project, however, and emphasized that it takes a village to execute a successful art project.
“This takes a group,” Brand said. “When you’re doing any sort of public art, it’s really hard to do by yourself. We’ve had to go over several hurdles to make this happen and it really would’ve been impossible with just one person.”
Although the committee anticipates awe for the butterfly mural, they also believe that arts and murals help to bring people together and create a stronger sense of community.
“Whether or not this art is up your alley is less important than the community involvement that it’s generated and the excitement in the neighborhood,” Brand said. “It’s a beautiful design, but it’s just as much about as the community-building as it’s about the actual art itself.”