2020 has taken a toll on downtown shopping and placemaking. There’s no time to waste on big master plans and no money for expensive consultants. Start taking action now to show life and new activity with small inexpensive steps.
Murals add life and color to a downtown and are highly visible even to people driving through. The activity that goes into creating them generates more attention for downtown. Traditional wall painted murals usually cost a lot of money and take a long time to get approvals. The good news is that you can create cheap instant murals. You have or can scrounge everything you need to start now.
Make sheet murals.
Get cheap torn or stained sheets from the thrift shops, paint right on them, or sew them up into something decorative.
Hang them up downtown, maybe inside the windows of a building, outside hung over a railing or fence. Use magnets to stick them to any building with metal siding.
Find free wood to paint.
Paint on old boards you scrounge up from neighbors.
Paint on pallets that businesses can donate for free.
Display the painted wood inside the windows of empty buildings. Mount them on fences or railings downtown. Plant them in empty lots or vacant spaces.
Collect campaign signs.
After an election, collect the old campaign signs. Call the former candidates, and ask if they have extras they’d give you. Turn the paper signs inside out and paint on them. Take the colorful plastic coroplast ones and cut them up and re-assemble into fun mosaic designs.
Hang them from railings and fences downtown.
Use empty windows as a free canvas.
Use shoe polish on glass doors or windows, inside or outside. Start with the empty buildings.
Make a chalk mural.
Check the thrift stores for cheap used sidewalk chalk. Ask around to see who has some they can donate.
Treat any smooth concrete surface as a possible chalk mural site. Yes, it will wash away in the next rains, but placemaking doesn’t have to be permanent. It’s the activity and visible change that matter. You can always replace it with a new chalk design next time.
Temporary art can be beautiful placemaking.
Instant murals make your downtown a more vibrant place right away without spending a fortune. After awhile, take down your fabric or wood murals, cut them into frame-able chunks and sell them off to raise money for the next project.
Thinking that the solution has to be big and permanent is what keeps you from doing cool little things that only last a while.
The goal isn’t the mural itself or the artwork. The goal is to show life and activity right away so you can bring shoppers back downtown.
Cheap Downtown Placemaking Ideas
Deb Brown and I found 39 practical placemaking ideas like this that you do for $100 or less right away. We put them in a video that you can buy and watch immediately. The video clip about sheet murals (above) is a sample from it. The full 30 minute video costs only $5, and you can find it here: Cheap Downtown Placemaking Ideas.
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