Reading proposes public art policy to bring colorful crosswalks and murals to the city

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Jeremy Long, Reading Eagle, Pa.
·2 min read
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May 5—Reading City Council is considering a public art policy that could bring colorful crosswalks, murals and banners to the city.

"It would encourage public art," Councilwoman Donna Reed said. "Crosswalks, street designs. Think of what we've seen in Washington, D.C., near Layfette Park with the Black Lives Matter. We have had multiple examples from San Francisco, Philadelphia and Clearwater (Fla.) of crosswalks."

Reed presented the new ordinance at council's committee-of-the-whole meeting on Monday. Reed said there were many people who helped get the ordinance written.

Reading Pride reached out to Reed late last year with the idea to paint rainbow crosswalks on Centre Avenue at Douglas Street and Oley Street.

The project hit a couple roadblocks because Centre Avenue is a state-owned road and the city has to jump through hoops to make changes to the road, Reed said.

It would not be the first time a street mural was painted in the city. In front of the Santander Performing Arts Center is a piano keyboard painted on the street.

"Out at Albright College on 13th Street you see the paw prints," Reed said, referring to the college's Lions mascot.

The policy would allow interested parties to come to the city and have their artwork vetted, Reed said.

"But it would highly encourage public art in a variety of mediums," she said. "It's something that can be applied throughout the city."

The other reason behind the public art ordinance is to streamline the process and make it fair and equal, Councilwoman Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz said.

People who want to install a piece of public art will need to garner support from people in the neighborhood where the artwork is being proposed.

"Because your installation creates a semipermanent change in a neighborhood, gathering support from your neighbors is important, especially from the homes or businesses closest to the planned installation," reads the ordinance.

City Clerk Linda Kelleher said she modeled the ordinance on the city's memorial review committee ordinance.

"It sort of allows the committee, with the internal staff, to give them the ability to model the program based on the need," Kelleher said. "As (interim Public Works Director) Charlie Jones pointed out, that committee works very well and very quickly."

The city does not bear any costs for any of the artwork the way the ordinance is written, but the city could create a grant program to help with costs, Kelleher said.

The ordinance could be introduced as soon as Monday and be voted on two weeks after that.