By Sahara Lyon
On Saturday, February 25th, 2023, students, faculty, and families from DeSoto Trail Elementary gathered at Tredington Park Drive to paint two crosswalks connected to the school. Artists Cosby Hayes and Sarah Painter were selected by the Knight Creative Communities Institute (KCCI) to create a design for their Crosswalks to Classrooms initiative. Betsy Couch, Executive Director of KCCI, stated that the initiative targets “high-use crosswalks and paints them with eye-catching, vibrant colors so that they help make it safer for students or bikers that are crossing the crosswalks.” Hayes created the design for the project, but students at DeSoto Trail had input in the creative process and the painting of the crosswalks. The program at DeSoto Trail was not the first of the initiative. In September, Kate Sullivan Elementary School students and Elizabeth Cobb Middle School joined artist Jay Giroux to paint the crosswalks on Hillcrest Street and Mitchell Avenue. The painting at DeSoto won’t be the last iteration of the project, either. KCCI is looking to paint more crosswalks at more schools in Leon County.
Leslie Taylor, the art teacher at DeSoto Trail, was tasked with the impossible feat of selecting just 25 students to assist with the project. Those students, as aforementioned, helped with the design and painting of the crosswalks. While Hayes created the framework for the design, Couch explained that students could move some of the images around and place the designs where they saw fit on the morning of the crosswalk painting. DeSoto’s mascot is the Trailblazers, so the design incorporates students’ footprints walking along the crosswalk, blazing a trail for future generations of DeSoto Trail students. Taylor stated, “it was really neat to see [the student] take ownership in this project.” Couch and Taylor reinforced the importance of the students having a sense of authorship over the project, as it increased interest and led to a better overall result.
Third grader Parker from DeSoto Trail was one of the students selected to work on the Crosswalks to Classrooms project. She was a big fan of the design and stated that she “liked the flowers;” She was patiently waiting for her turn to paint the crosswalks like some of the other students. When asked why she liked her art class, she said, “in class, we get to start something new and practice a new skill, and there are some really exciting things we get to do.” Parker said her school day would not be the same without art class, and it gives her a way to be creative at school. Similarly, when asked about the project, a fifth grader at DeSoto Trail stated, “it’s exciting to be a part of making art in front of the school… I’m happy to be out here, and I think it is a super fun and creative way to help out.” When asked about her art class, she said, “we get to do hands-on art, and it’s fun to learn about different things we can do.” Both students expressed that their school day would not be the same without an art education and that their art class provides them with a creative outlet.
Michele Keltner, Principal of DeSoto Trail, spoke with parents, students, KCCI volunteers, and news crews at the event. When asked about the students’ roles in the project, Keltner stated, “our students are now a part of the DeSoto Trail legacy… they’ll be able to take pride in that they had a part in pedestrian awareness and emphasizing their art skills.” Keltner also discussed the importance of arts education for students, stating, “art education is so important… [students] get to show their skills and talents in those areas, those artistic skills and talents are important to making a well-rounded student.” Taylor reinforced this sentiment by stating that arts education results in a well-rounded student with an appreciation for culture and diversity.
KCCI’s Community Catalyst program is responsible for several public art projects throughout Tallahassee, and the Crosswalks to Classrooms initiative is no exception. Increasing pedestrian safety while beautifying a crosswalk, including students in the creative process, and giving them a sense of ownership over this project is an incredible feat that KCCI accomplished with aplomb. Be sure to check out the crosswalks at DeSoto Trail, Kate Sullivan, and Cobb, and watch for future Crosswalks to Classrooms at other schools in Leon County!
Look for the article on the Tallahassee Democrat’s website, coming at a later date.