- By Tony Doris Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
The purple palms and mango sun splashed color on the gray pavement at Tamarind Avenue and Fern Street and added an element of safety for students who crossed at the intersection every day — including those who designed the work.
The graphic, titled “Walks of Life,” brought a measure of acclaim to the city as well, and to the four Dreyfoos School of the Arts students who designed and helped paint it 11 months ago.
Several hundred attendees at the Safe Streets regional summit of urban planners in West Palm voted the city their People’s Choice Award for the graphic, “awarded to a project that has helped advance Complete Streets efforts in Broward, Miami-Dade, and/or Palm Beach by helping create safer, more equitable, and more livable streets for all.”
Complete Streets is an approach to urban design that encourages enabling travel that is safe, convenient and accessible to all ages and abilities, whether walking, cycling, driving or on public transit.
“The intersection is a large source of pride and accomplishment in terms of our team, to take something we had drawn in a small schematic and really implement it and be in charge of every aspect of it, other than the cost,” said Jessica Raia, a Dreyfoos senior who was on the student team chosen to create the work, with Ania Johnson, Megan Tachev and Daniela Walters.
The city asked for something that represented West Palm Beach and its transportation system. The intersection was chosen because it’s on a busy, four-lane straight-away that hundreds of Dreyfoos teens cross every day to and from their Tri-Rail commutes.
“We wanted to focus on transportation itself and the diversity and colors of the city,” Raia said. “The thought process was, to represent different ways to traverse West Palm Beach, since it’s outside the train station, so we included bikes, people walking and things like that.”
The idea, according to the SafeStreetsSummit.org website, was “to slow down automobile drivers in respect for others using other modes of transportation and to provide physical comfort and interest for the students crossing the street.”
Dreyfoos students volunteered to paint the carefully measured project last March, as did parents and other community members. Mayor Jeri Muoio and Congresswoman Lois Frankel, the previous mayor, came to watch.
The Safe Streets Summit took place Feb. 2 and 3 at the Hilton West Palm Beach, a few blocks from the intersection. It was hosted by the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization and Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization. Over 400 transportation professionals, elected officials and other advocates of safer streets and better access to multimodal transportation attended, said Malissa Booth, spokeswoman for the Palm Beach TPA.
Two other Palm Beach County municipalities also won awards. Tequesta Mayor Abby Brennan was named “Complete Streets Champion” and the City of Delray Beach won the “Complete Streets Community Award.”
The Dreyfoos students who competed in the design contest submitted and defended their proposals just as professional artists would, said Lacey Van Reeth, dean of visual arts. The winning students, who called themselves Team Sunshine, were recognized at a city commission meeting a month before the graphic was painted. Part of the competition was an agreement that even teams that didn’t win would come out and help paint the sprawling, 40-by-60-foot asphalt “canvas,” Van Reeth said.
Raia got additional mileage out of the project, as it provided valuable experience she could point in college entrance essays. (As of Thursday she was waiting to hear back.)
“Going through the process, taking that responsibility on and being part of it was really meaningful, in that it taught me responsibility and how to be communicative to people around me and work together as a team,” she said.
Completing the project also provided a happy ending to a difficult personal circumstance. Her mother had recently suffered a heart attack and been told she had a 30 percent chance of living. But she came through and the day she was released, she came by and watched her daughter’s project being completed.