Neighborhood art creates places for people

Balloon tree by Audrey Baker

It started with rainbows in the windows. In mid-March, social media and news outlets reported children around the world are making rainbows to hang in their street-facing windows to spread a little joy and color to their neighbors during the Coronavirus crisis. Then people started propping teddy bears in windows to entertain kids out on family walks.

Now in Kansas City, we’re seeing sidewalk chalk, balloon trees, and other homemade creative expressions designed to enhance pedestrian life. Allison Muller, store manager at ScrapsKC, thinks “people are wanting to remind each other, and probably themselves, that we can all still seek to better the place we’re in and serve the people we’re around. That helps us all feel a little better, gives us some purpose, and redeems the extra time lots of us currently have.” Additionally, making art can help both kids and grown-ups process the unease many of us are feeling.

Art makes communities safer

Whether or not you create the art yourself, creative placemaking makes neighborhoods safer and more appealing to people who walk, bike, and play outside. According to the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, people are less likely to engage in bad behavior in an area that has been obviously “claimed.” Public art, especially community-led art, demonstrates that an area is valued and cared for, and as crime falls, neighbors feel more comfortable spending time outdoors. According to artist Stacy Cahalan, this is especially valuable when many families are feeling isolated: “Nature is an incredible healer,” she says, “We have feelings we can’t articulate, and getting outdoors is a balm to our spirits.”

Create your own street art

Allison and Stacy have a few ideas for how you can use art to create places for people in your neighborhood:

  • Use what you have: Spring cleaning is an opportunity to rediscover forgotten supplies or invent crafty new uses for the items in your space.
  • Embrace your inner child: Many of us wanted to grow up to be artists and adventurers. Don’t let perfection get in the way of your expression, and then take it outside!
  • Serve your community: ScrapsKC believes everyone is creative and everyone deserves to have what they need to stay safe and healthy. You can fulfill the human need for comfort and beauty with your art.
  • Find more ideas on ScrapsKC’s Pinterest board:

From hopscotch grids on the sidewalk to Little Free Libraries stocked with books and canned goods, Kansas Citians are using art to come together as neighbors. How will you make #spaceforpeopleKC this week?


Stacy Cahalan’s front yard “free art cart” draws some young creatives.


Thank you for your support. Similar to many non-profits and small businesses, BikeWalkKC’s financial sustainability has been threatened by the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are able to, please consider making a donation or purchasing a membership for yourself, your household, or your organization. Any amount helps, and we appreciate your support at this difficult time.

Posted in Advocacy, BikeWalkKC News, News, Walking and tagged , , , , , .