Traffic Signal Boxes

It Takes a Village, 2017 

Durham Mural Crew & Brenda Miller-Holmes


Walltown Narrative by Brenda Miller-Holmes and the Durham Mural Crew: 

"To understand our designs, it is important to first start with a description of our community engaged process. We are reaching out in each of these communities in a multitude of ways including door to door flyers, setting up a table and interviewing people onsite, calling churches, and via social media and email with community associations and organizations. Our focus is on engaging the people who will interact with the artwork on a daily basis, asking them what they would like to see, and letting them know that their voice is central to what we will create. The interns brainstormed the following questions to lead the conversations... 

What comes to mind when you think of your neighborhood?  
What is your vision for your neighborhood?  
Are there any local historical events/people that you want to honor?  
What kind of art do you want to see? Is there an elder in the neighborhood that you want to honor? Is there a young person in the neighborhood that you want to honor?  

Our approach to the Walltown design began as a result of these diverse outreach efforts, including in-depth interviews that the interns conducted with community members that have had longevity in the neighborhood. Our participants included Durham City Council member Steve Schewel, and local journalist and entrepreneur, Justin Laidlaw, of Runaway, Inc., in addition to a multi-generational array of current residents. This neighborhood had very specific recurring themes that were echoed by many of the people we spoke with, mainly centering around how “close knit” this diverse community is. The phrase “it takes a village” came up numerous times as people reflected on how safe they felt growing up here as everyone looked out for each other’s children. Unity was a strong theme, particularly around the idea of being “united in struggle” as people described how organized the neighborhood is and how residents look out for each other’s needs.  

For this design we took a much more symbolic approach to the images as opposed to a literal one. In the center facing the intersection of Club Blvd. and Guess Rd. is a house with an open door and a path drawing the viewer in. This warm color graphic design sits in a rectangular field of a similar tone, cooler violet. This rectangle is nested in a field of gradually lightening concentric rectangles emanating out from the center. This design element will create the optical illusion of depth which serves not only a visual interest (it will create vast space on a small surface) but a symbolic interest as it refers to the idea the many forming one and the ripple effect that the kindness of one can have on a whole community. 

As the concentric rectangles wrap around the box, they fade into gradually lightening stripes that eventually start the puzzle piece pattern. Flanked on each narrow side of the box is a hand in a gesture of solidarity, done in warm, bright shades of green. These hands symbolize the unity amongst diversity that is the strength of the Walltown community. The puzzle piece pattern wraps from each narrow side of the box to cover the back, mall-facing side. These puzzle pieces are done in a perimeter pattern with the outer pieces in cool blues and migrating inward from cool pinks to warm reds, oranges and yellows. This use of color again creates depth and the puzzle pieces themselves symbolize the idea of “close knit” and how every part is needed for the whole.  

In the center of the pattern in a graphic eye symbol done in shades of violet that will pop against the complimentary yellow. The eye is a symbol of safety, referring to comments regarding feeling looked after with “lots of eyes on me”. It is also a symbol of creativity, as many creative educators were called to mind while we conversed with neighbors. As a whole, the design will sing with lot’s a bright color and be both impactful from a quick glance in traffic as well as a thoughtful look while walking by."