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Roadwords.3 – October 18, 2009

November 5, 2009



Sometimes you just know a day is going to be a long day. Autumn warmth had packed up and left town as quickly as cold winds blew their way into Winston-Salem; carrying with them a seemingly endless supply of dried leaves that had a special knack of finding their way – repeatedly – into wet paint. It was clear that the weather was going to be an adversary on this day, but we stood strong…with a little help from new friends.


MLK Drive Painting

Sweeping away the Leaves to make way for the Screw

With the generous help of the City of Winston-Salem, we arranged to block off lanes along MLK Drive on Sunday, October 17 so that Roadsworth could paint three designs on three separate crosswalks. As we arrived around 10:00am that morning, we proceeded through a parade of orange traffic cones that would come to serve as our silent guardians for the rest of the day. These cones were arranged by three of the best city workers we have had the pleasure of working with this year. Unfortunately I didn’t catch their names, but their patience, professionalism and support will not soon be forgotten. The same goes for the invaluable assistance of WSSU Student (and candidate for SECCA volunteer of the year) Jaeson Pitt, who met us bright and early at the MLK crosswalk connecting the Anderson Center to campus.


MLK Drive Painting 2

The Sanctuary of Traffic Cones


Along with superhuman installation man Cliff Dossel, our crew got to work laying down stencils, tape and paint to create what was to become a giant screw. Speaking to the city, state and school desire to see traffic on MLK slow down by narrowing the street and knitting the campus closer together, this screw extended from sidewalk-to-sidewalk. It is Roadsworth’s largest painting in Winston-Salem, and when the final threads were painted at 10:00pm that evening, its impact was clear. Beyond the symbolism of bridge, connector, and fastener, this design registered its importance with every footprint on the freshly laid paint. As a small piece of a grand dream, this simple pattern envisions a piece of public space where pedestrian walkways retake that which has been surrendered to the automobile.


MLK Drive Painting 3

Roadsworth Painting in the Threads

MLK Drive Painting 4

Painting by Headlight

In between painting the head and tip of the screw, we moved north to paint a pair of crosswalks leading into another section of the WSSU campus. On one side, a row of giant dominos spoke to the precarious act of crossing a long expanse with little more than 15 fleeting seconds promised by the foreboding orange hand. The painting of each domino took longer than expected, but even with repeated roller applications of white and blue, the stencils held out surprisingly well.

Dominos 1

Jaeson & Steven at work with one of the Dominos

Dominos 2

Stencils Holding strong through coats of White & Blue


On the other side of the street, we witnessed vintage Roadsworth in action as he put aside paint trays and rollers for the quintessential spray can. Due largely to the more intricate patterning of this stencil – the wheels, gears and belts of an oversized treadmill/conveyor belt – the artist decided to return to where he started. I was busy taping lines to complete the design, but for some strange, special reason, I looked up and paused just long enough to witness one of the most resonant moments of the entire process. With dustmask and hat; standing calmly in the middle of a bustling street as cars whizzed by on both sides, Roadsworth laid down pieces of his design in clouds of white spray paint. When the mist cleared, another utopian proposal was borne on the streets of MLK – dreaming to move pedestrians at a quicker pace (like moving walkways in the airport) while at the same time, speaking to the dangers of a passive, mechanized lifestyle.


Conveyor 1

Stencils & Spray Paint; The Conveyor takes shape

Conveyor 2

Conveyor Belts and Treadmills to "speed up" the crosswalk

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