West Asheville -- When Leslie Rosenberg, now 42, was a K–12 art teacher years ago, she discovered that art and community go hand-in-hand, the synergy between the two producing great results from students of all ages. Currently she is working for STEAM Studio at UNC Asheville, where she is the studio technician, teaching students about machines and helping them problem-solve their project ideas.
Rosenberg believes that art––especially larger pieces like murals––is a vehicle for helping people feel as if they’re part of something larger. Now she is putting that same philosophy to work in West Asheville, where plans are underway for a new traffic roundabout at the intersection of Waynesville and Westwood Avenues.
As described on the Asheville on Bikes website, “The [WestWayne] project will be an intersection improvement consisting of a neighborhood traffic circle, crosswalks, and other related changes.”
Rosenberg is the artist on the project, which has preliminary support from the City of Asheville. She explains, “We actually surveyed the neighborhood about the aesthetic design prior to completing it. It was an online survey folks could take while they were social distancing and walking around their neighborhood. I didn't come up with the design until we had about 100 responses from neighbors about how they move through that area.
To do so, we asked them to describe their experience through their senses. Many people mentioned goldfinches, milkweed, and the blue bottles that used to be in Christopher's garden, a community landmark that is no longer on the intersection.” Rosenberg added. final approved artwork incorporates these elements.
AARP is one of the nonprofit sponsors on the project where the final artwork incorporates all of those elements. “Safety plus beauty leads to community,” is how Rebecca Chaplin, Associate State Director, AARP NC Mountain Region, describes WestWayne.
Like a previous tactical urbanism project on Coxe Avenue in downtown Asheville, the Westwayne project is experimental—that is, stakeholders (the city, nearby homeowners and businesses, bike clubs, etc.) will be reviewing its effectiveness for several months following its completion.
“We’re lucky to have Leslie on this project as the community engagement artist,” says Chaplin. “She helps make it as age-friendly and community-friendly as it can be, and she’s been key to getting input and support from residents.”
You can find out more about Leslie Rosenberg at her website or on her Facebook page.
AARP empowers people to choose how they live as they age. We strive to understand local community needs and provide support and assistance. We do this through our initiatives, programs, partnerships and advocacy efforts to improve quality of life and promote livability, equity and justice for all ages. Stay tuned to the news in the Mountain Region at www.aarp.org/mountainnc
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