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Roadwords.1 – October 16, 2009

October 30, 2009



Although the weather didn’t quite share in the hospitality, SECCA happily welcomed Canadian street artist Roadsworth to Winston-Salem and the Inside/Out: Artists in the Community II Public Art program on October 10th. Roadsworth is the sixth artist in the 2009 series, and was invited to create a series of intervention-style street paintings on the campus of Winston-Salem State University and three crosswalks along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. To give you a brief background, Roadsworth alters existing street markers and civilian wayfinding devices (i.e. sidewalks) to critique car culture and re-energize the pedestrian (and cyclist) experience. Dubbed “Pedestrian Street Art,” these works use satire and spectacle to poke fun at humorless streets and society’s absurd (and often dangerous) reverence for the automobile. He does so by using the language of the street to subvert itself, retaining the functionality of said markings while transforming their character into something delightfully absurd. In the process, Roadsworth illuminates what is so often ignored – creating utopian proposals that simultaneously speak to the imminent dangers of car culture.

Spray Cans

an early example of Roadsworth's Pedestrian Street Art

In Winston-Salem, one of the most pointed (and problematic) meeting places between motor vehicles and pedestrians is on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive at the campus of WSSU. On this perpetually busy stretch of MLK, students and pedestrians must regularly dodge high volumes of traffic as they move between residence halls, parking lots, and campus buildings. To address the problem there are city and state initiatives on the horizon to slow traffic down and narrow the street to two lanes; but in the mean time, it remains a serious issue – especially when coming off of Stadium Drive. These plans coincide with WSSU’s desire to more closely connect its campus across MLK by enhancing the “walk-ability” of its pathways, crosswalks and avenues. For anyone who has not been on the campus of WSSU, you are immediately struck by the sheer volume of students on foot – moving between buildings and the many pieces of public art that have been commissioned and acquired over the years. Seen in unison, these circumstances made the work of Roadsworth especially conducive to this location in physical, political and artistic terms.




MLK Jr. Drive, at entry into WSSU campus


After five days of familiarizing himself with the sites, polishing up ideas, meeting with WSSU Administration (special thanks to Diggs Gallery Director Belinda Tate, Installation Manager Dara Silver, and Provost Dr. Brenda A. Allen) and City Officials (with thanks to Greg Turner & Stan Polanis) and cutting stencils out of Bristol board, we began the painting process on Friday, October 16. On this day Roadsworth re-imagined the notion of “fuel” by transforming a diagonally slanted crosswalk in front of the Diggs Gallery into an oversized fuel can. Symbolically feeding an engine of arts & culture on the WSSU campus, this lot also became a meeting point for students to interact with the artist. Dr. Will Boone brought his English class over to meet Roadsworth, and after a brief introduction to the project and a series of questions from the students, the painting began.


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Dr. Will Boone's class at the Diggs Gallery

Dr. Boone's Class 2

Introductions & Questions


A number of Dr. Boone’s students stayed after the class let out, and quickly became enmeshed in the process as they grabbed rollers and paint trays to assist Roadsworth in laying down the design. One of SECCA’s core mission objectives is to inspire community through contemporary art, and it was rewarding to see that ambition come to life. I’m sure this brand of fuel will continue to feed new thinking well after our fossil fuels run out.


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Roadsworth meets with WSSU Students

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Painting Begins in Full


Peeling up Tape and Walking the Lines


From Parking Lot to Fuel Can

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