The City of Norfolk identified project sites in three Norfolk Police Patrol Districts based on neighborhood diversity, traffic safety, police data, pavement conditions, and resident interest. Ground murals were painted at the three sites, and will become hubs for events to engage residents, embrace communities, and help ensure that those who live in the areas feel looked after and cared for. The Police Department participated in the events in an effort to increase police-community trust, and thereby improving police effectiveness and public safety. All three murals celebrate Norfolk’s black community in various ways, such as visual elements inspired by Adinkra symbolism and quilt design and through references to the Underground Railroad and Denby Park’s legacy as the “Times Square of the South”.
Improving Police and Community Relations Through Art
Best Practice Highlight: Designing for the Community
Local artist Mensah Bey was selected for the first project, a 100-foot ground mural in the Norview neighborhood. His design, titled “Gather in Abundance,” draws inspiration from West African Adinkra symbolism, with imagery representing unity, togetherness, abundance, and cooperation. In addition, the design creates a physical platform for participatory events. Amid a pandemic, social distancing was a prime consideration during any community gathering. The design incorporates flower symbols spaced 10 feet apart to indicated where individuals can safely stand during choreographed activities. Over the course of two days, Mensah Bey and his team oversaw 55 community volunteers and police officers to paint the mural.
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“The messaging I wanted to portray through this project is putting artwork in these somewhat forgotten communities as opposed to in the designated art districts. Everybody deserves the arts.”
Mensah Bey, Artist