Let’s Work Together

The Color Project Ensley

The Color Project Ensley combines murals, gardens, lights, and music to address health, blight, safety, crime and violence, and rejuvenation issues in the Ensley Community.  The Color Project will make Ensley the most colorful place in Alabama making it into a destination space for residents and tourists.  The murals are designed with the input of the neighbors in Ensley in order to reflect the true spirit of the community.  The first phase of this project is a mural, garden, and contemplation path that will blend into the garden in the adjacent lot.  The garden will be attended by members of the community in order to help combat stationary living which is a great contributor to a number of physical and mental disorders.  

The next phases of The Color Project will see more murals created on adjacent buildings and buildings in close proximity of the initial piece, along with more of the vacant lots converted into gardens and pocket parks.  Lighting, (think Light Rails by Railroad Park, Birmingham, AL.) Multicolored LED lights will be placed in the alleyways between the buildings, in gardens/pocket parks, and on the street to provide lit corridors to safely gather and view the works of art. And music will be on a continuous loop, choreographed with the lights, to create the feeling of activity even when the corridor is empty. The Color Project will enliven the neighborhood, cut crime and violence, create opportunities for exercise, and provide healthy foods all while creating a greater feeling of safety and livability in the downtown Ensley; a community ready to rise.  We seek to make a space that deters crime, beautifies the community, creates opportunities for better mental and physical health, helps to alleviate food deserts, educates residents and draws potential investment/reinvestment in Ensley.  

The Color Project has the potential to reshape the conversation about and change the lives of the people in Ensley.

The Ensley community consists of urban, low-income, and elderly, high risk children and minority residents.  Over 90% of the population is of African-American descent. [www.zipdatamaps.comwww.usacityfacts.com]  Families that live below the poverty line count as more than 18% of area code 35208, 35% of 35218, 20% of 35224, and 15% of 35228. People 25 and above with high school diplomas make up only 29.9% in 35208, 35.5% in 35218, 35.8% in 35224 and 34.8% in 35228. Residents, age 16 and over, in the labor force is 37.8% for 35208, 37% for 35218, 43.4% for 35224, and 41.7 for 35228. [American Fact Finder: Community Survey 2012]

The Ensley Master Plan, created by the Auburn University Urban Studio, proposes that Ensley stakeholders work together to rejuvenate the community by:

  • Working with property owners to clean up existing storefronts.
  • Host regular concerts, food truck events and a farmers market.
  • Plant high visibility crops on vacant land work with REV’s Urban Food Project and the Mayor’s land bank initiative.
  • Test the potential for Urban Agriculture in Ensley.
  •  Improve signage identifying Historic Ensley.

These are all areas that the Project will directly address or make possible to be addressed by extensions of itself or other programs.

The lack of grocery stores, other food stores, and farmers markets in downtown Ensley have allowed the formation of a food desert for the residents of Ensley and Pratt City. 

According to a Main Street Birmingham (MSB) report Examining the Impact of Food Deserts and Food Imbalances on Public Health in 2010, over 88,000 people live in areas with food imbalances. Over 23,000 of the individuals are children. The people in these areas have to travel a significant distance to get healthy food. This impacts their quality of life. There are three finalized food deserts in the Birmingham area totaling over 25,000 people and over 44,000 others live in food desert conditions. The MSB study found: 

  1. There were 95% more premature deaths in these areas; 
  2. more diet- related death; 
  3. more death results from cancer.

Contacts: Brian Hawkins afreevoice@gmail.com; 205-567-0333