In Troy, New York, a raised highway cuts through the city, creating a 500-foot-long stretch of road underneath it that is surrounded by vast areas of blank concrete and monumental stanchions. A remnant of urban renewal efforts from the middle of last century, these cavernous spaces have functioned as a major physical, psychological, and ultimately socioeconomic barrier dividing the thriving downtown from lower-income residential areas to the north.
The “Uniting Line” project, a partnership between the City of Troy and the Arts Center of the Capital Region, has transformed the 500-foot stretch of concrete abutments below the bridge into a welcoming pedestrian space that encourages movement between neighborhoods. Through discussion panels and hundreds of community votes, Jade Warrick, a local artist, was selected to design the installation, which was installed by professional contractors and community volunteers over the course of several weeks. Warrick’s large-scale murals on 32 bridge piers unify the area visually and act as a colorful backdrop for activities that take place at the adjacent basketball courts, waterfront, and other open spaces. The art also makes clear that this is space designed for people, and not cars. Future phases of the project will install lighting and other improvements to further activate the area.
“Art in public spaces can make a powerful narrative device, which I wanted to explore with my mural design. I created my design to guide the viewer through this story wrapped in nature that has you uncover the gems Troy has planted throughout.”
Jade Warrick, Artist
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Best Practice Highlight: Open Call for Artists
The Arts Center issued an open call, informed by community surveys, that invited regional artists from Troy and its surrounding counties to apply to design the murals for the “Uniting Line” project. Artists could apply only to design the mural or also to oversee the mural installation process; this flexibility allowed for artists without experience implementing large-scale public art projects to be considered alongside veteran public artists. Three finalist artists were chosen by a jury of administrators and community members, and were commissioned to develop designs, which were then shared with the community for feedback. The winning artist, Jade Warrick, had applied only to design the murals, so the Arts Center hired a project manager and a team of 15 mural artists and three apprentices to oversee the implementation and facilitate the community volunteer involvement.
Mural adding a splash of color under Collar City Bridge (Times Union, October 13, 2021)
Community to help choose new Hoosick Street Bridge underpass mural (News 10 – Albany, May 21, 2021)
Troy wants to bridge Hoosick Street divide with art (Times Union, January 13, 2021)
“Bridging the Divide” documentary (PBS (WMHT) February, 17, 2022)