New Creative Crosswalks Brighten Up Centre Market

Some art is created to last a lifetime, while other pieces are more temporary. Both enrich our lives in their own way. If you’ve visited Centre Market in the last few days, then you likely got a firsthand look at how public art can enhance the look and feel of an area. That’s because the Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission added an artful touch to the crosswalks at the intersections of 22nd and Market and 24th and Market Streets near the historic Centre Market.

The initiative was led by the commission’s mural subcommittee, which met earlier this year to discuss design options for the new crosswalk murals before narrowing it down to two based on feasibility and overall appeal. Commissioner Logan Schmitt explained, “We wanted one of the crosswalks to be interactive, so the design near the North end of Centre Market is a hopscotch grid.” Commissioner Bethany Decker added, “The hopscotch grid is located in one of the market’s most high-traffic areas, so making it an interactive experience made sense.” At the South end of the market, the crosswalk features a vibrant fish skeleton design. “The design is a wonderful nod to Coleman’s Fish Market – a little homage to one of Wheeling’s oldest institutions,” said Decker.

  • The new fish skeleton crosswalk can be found at the south end of Center Market, at the intersection of 24th and Market Streets.

As a volunteer-based board, the Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission members all pitched in to make the project successful. Logan shared that he arranged the designs and put together templates for them to use. “Rosemary Ketchum was a huge help with spearheading the project and keeping in contact with the City and Centre Market to accommodate our needs and to make sure everything was ready to paint,” Schmitt explained. “Jeanne Finstein was instrumental in helping us narrow down our designs, and Bethany Decker arranged a ton of day-of needs and kept us caffeinated, hydrated, and fed.” On Sunday, when the crosswalks were painted, Rachael Schmitt, Logan, Rosemary, and Bethany were the volunteers who rolled up their sleeves and picked up a paintbrush to complete the project.

Wheeling’s Original Creative Crosswalks

These new crosswalk murals are certainly an exciting addition to Centre Market. However, this concept isn’t new. In fact, it’s a continuation of a project that began in 2019 by former commission secretary Melinda Koslik. She explained that the project was originally inspired by Strawberry Way, a 440-foot-long street mural in Downtown Pittsburgh, PA. “At the time, we were realizing there was a catch-22 in the public art realm,” said Koslik. “Everyone wanted more of it, but there never seemed to be enough funding for it. We knew we were in a perfect position to support our local artists, while also making Wheeling more vibrant. The crosswalks project was a great example of that partnership.”

The commission reviewed several designs submitted by artists across the region before sharing them with the public to vote on the finalists. Ultimately, designs submitted by artists Hannah Wagner and Nicole Batts were selected, and the crosswalks were painted by them with the help of the commissioners and community volunteers on September 22, 2019. “The most memorable moment for me was that one of our winning artists ended up getting sick at the last minute and could not come out to paint her crosswalk,” Koslik shared. “That meant I had to come up with a completely new design on the spot that was simple enough for our volunteers to paint. Without the artists and volunteers, the project would never become a reality. From everyone on the Arts Commission that were involved in the planning process, to all the volunteers who showed up to help paint. It honestly took a village from start to finish.”

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  • 2019 crosswalk mural designed by Hannah Wagner. "I wanted to add a subject that honored the history of Centre Market while being fresh and fun," said Wagner (photo provided my Melinda Koslik).

While the original designs have since faded away, the latest rendition of the creative crosswalks project gives us new art to enjoy. “I am so happy to see this project live on and get updated with new art,” said Koslik. “These projects are so important in helping to beautify and revitalize our communities.” Typically, crosswalk murals have a lifespan of 1-3 years, depending on maintenance and traffic. This impermanence allows for fresh, innovative designs to be displayed more frequently. According to Schmitt, the commission plans to revisit the crosswalks in a few years and determine a new design.

The Value of Public Art

So, why does any of this matter? It’s just some paint on the street, right? Maybe. But if you look at best practices for community design and urban revitalization, investing in public art – like crosswalk murals – can provide aesthetic and safety benefits to our streets while fostering a sense of community pride and ownership. Logan agrees, “Public art gives a place a real sense of life and vibrancy. It gives folks a little more pride in their public spaces and helps strengthen our community. In a city like Wheeling that is changing and reinventing itself so much right now, that kind of outlook is super important.”

This type of public art can also make our streets safer. In fact, one study conducted by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Asphalt Art Initiative found that cities with crosswalk art saw a 50% drop in traffic crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists and a 27% increase in drivers yielding to pedestrians with the right-of-way.1 As one of Wheeling’s most bustling social hubs, having both beautiful and safe sidewalks makes Centre Market all the more welcoming for visitors who spend time in the neighborhood patronizing local businesses and building community ties. The success of this endeavor should serve as a model that can be replicated in other highly trafficked areas throughout the city. 

With several sunny days ahead of us, I can think of no better time to take a stroll around Center Market and marvel at our city’s latest investment in public art. Why don’t you join me?

WANT MORE LOCAL ART? Discover Wheeling’s Public Art Collection

• Alex Panas is the Program Manager for Wheeling Heritage, where she works with artists, small business owners, and community stakeholders to provide technical assistance and create meaningful programs that enhance Wheeling. She also serves as the managing editor for Weelunk. Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her husband where they raise four cats and four spunky backyard chickens.

References

1 Schwartz, Sam. Asphalt Art Safety Study: Historical Crash Analysis and Observational Behavior Assessment at Asphalt Art Sites. Bloomberg Philanthropies, April 2022. https://assets.bbhub.io/dotorg/sites/43/2022/04/Asphalt-Art-Safety-Study.pdf.