Asphalt art

A nonprofit group, Living Streets Alliance, initiated an asphalt project in Tucson, Arizona, by transforming an intersection into a pedestrian-friendly space in 2018. A similar idea will come to downtown Fairbanks next summer. Photo Courtesy of Living Streets Alliance

Local artists will paint asphalt murals on Fifth Avenue and Lacey Street next summer to make downtown safer and more inviting.

The Asphalt Art Initiative 2021 to beautify downtown streets was introduced in April by the Fairbanks Area Surface Transportation Planning agency, known as FAST Planning. Last week they won a $25,000 grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with Rasmuson Foundation.

“Asphalt art projects help cities reclaim public spaces, make them brighter and safer, and build community — all important goals, especially amid the continuing hardships of the pandemic,” said Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and former mayor of New York City.

FAST Planning proposed two spots for asphalt art beautification: a part of Fifth Avenue from Cushman to Barnette streets and Lacey Street between 10th to 12th avenues. On Fifth Avenue, the idea is to create a mockup of wider sidewalks and landscaping. For Lacey Street, artists would use asphalt murals to demonstrate design concepts currently considered for the street, specifically blended corridor or linear park.

“We want to paint those concepts on the street,” previously said Jackson Fox, the director of FAST Planning. “The idea behind the initiative is to test or demonstrate design alternatives to what a roadway looks like.”

The murals will adorn the streets until their permanent reconstruction.

The initiative is an expansion of the annual Fairbanks Storm Drain Art Event, in which artists beautify storm drains and remind pedestrians that everything going into the drain ends up in Chena River, Fox said.

“The Asphalt Art Initiative is much larger than that annual event,” Fox added. “It brings artists to paint on asphalt on sidewalks, pedestrian spaces and even road infrastructures.”

The grant provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies aims to beautify intersections, crosswalks and pedestrian spaces. Sixteen cities have previously received the money through the program, and 26 U.S. cities will be awarded up to $25,000 to install projects in 2022-2023.

“From Kodiak, Alaska to Atlanta, from San Juan to St. Louis, cities from every corner of the continent will show that safer, more inviting streets are just a brush stroke away,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, Principal for Transportation at Bloomberg Associates. “Started in the shadow of the pandemic, the Asphalt Art Initiative has now grown into a movement. As communities recover, projects like these will inspire us to not just re-create the streets we had, but make them safer, more inviting and more vibrant than ever before.”

Fox expressed excitement about the win in the email.

“Over 200 cities applied and we won one of the 26 grants awarded,” Fox wrote. “Later this winter we will issue a Call for Artists/Artist Teams to submit proposals to use for the artwork to be painted on 5th Avenue and Lacey Street. The painting will occur in summer 2022.”

Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at (907) 459-7587 or at Follow her at

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