Artist Susan Krueger-Barber is bringing a fresh approach to tactical urbanism to Chicago to highlight the dangers to people on foot.
Krueger-Barber is an MFA student at the Art Institute of Chicago. Last year, she did her residency at Avondale’s Corner gallery focusing on crosswalk dynamics in cities with a project called “Stripes Aren’t Enough.” She studied driver behaviors that endanger pedestrians at the adjacent Milwaukee/Drake intersection, and tested out fun strategies for safety interventions, while dressed in the costume of her comedic alter ego Art Grrrl. At the end of her residency, she presented a formal proposal for changes to the intersection to the Chicago Department of Transportation.
The artist first became interested in using art to raise awareness of the dangers posed to vulnerable road users after one of one of her neighbors was fatally struck by a driver. Since then, Krueger-Barber has done several pedestrian- and bike-safety interventions and stunts in her hometown of Provo, in Utah. Lynn Basa, the owner of Corner gallery, said the residency was a perfect fit. “We’re this friendly neighborhood gallery, but you look out the window and see all this, mean egregious behavior,” referring to drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians in the zebra-striped crosswalk. “It’s surprising that people in cars would do that to their fellow citizens in crosswalks.”
She set-up temporary curb bump-outs using construction bollards topped with candy-filled piñatas from a nearby Mexican grocery store.
“It went pretty well,” Krueger-Barber said. “It slowed down some traffic, but there were still some outliers who sped through the intersection.
None of the piñatas were struck by cars. “But if they had been, that would have been amazing – the candy would have been a festive stand-in for guts,” Krueger-Barber said. No passers-by tried to break the piñatas, but lots of them took selfies with the papier mache critters.