At the corner of Main and Sycamore streets, four Zionsville Community Schools students painted the traffic control box with social justice themes to support national calls for diversity and inclusion.
Eighth-grade Zionsville Middle School student Phoebe Sidebottom, 13, initiated the “All in This Together for Social Justice” project. She was inspired to raise funds for the project in her hometown after seeing Black Lives Matter murals painted on city landscapes in the Pacific Northwest and downtown Indianapolis.
“I thought it (art) would raise social justice in a beautiful way,” Sidebottom said.
Sidebottom worked in collaboration with the Zionsville Cultural District, the mayor’s office, Palette Art Studio and Robert Goodman Jewelers to organize the project, which included choosing three additional students to design one of the four sides of the traffic control box.
Judges who chose the student artists included Sidebottom, State Sen. J.D. Ford, Zionsville artist Cynthia Young, Zionsville business owner Lolly Mahaney, Zionsville photographer Tom Casalini and Zionsville Diversity Coalition member Monisha Mitchell. Nearly 30 students applied, according to Sidebottom’s mother, Jeanne Davis.
The winners from each school level were Eagle Elementary Nina Tucker, 7; Zionsville West Middle School student Audrey Mast, 14; and Zionsville Community High School student Grace Lizama, 16. With assistance from local artist Rebecca Cisneros of Palette Art Studio, the young artists worked through October to paint the box.
“I think what we saw here today was a girl-led response to conversations that adults and families and businesses and community leaders are having all over the nation,” Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron said after the project was unveiled. “And they brought their message to this, which is ‘All in This Together.’ How can you have an argument about something like this. I think there are a lot of really strong, young leaders in this community, and it’s exciting the way that they want to make a difference.”
Although several dozen people gathered Oct. 25 to celebrate the box’s unveiling, not all feedback has been positive. Davis said an onlooker harassed the girls on multiple occasions, calling them “terrorists” and “anti-American.”
Davis said the project is indicative of the girls’ perseverance and their generation’s willingness to become politically engaged at a younger age.
“Everyone is allowed their own opinion. It’s just the way they share it,” Sidebottom said. “We have gotten an overwhelmingly amount of positive encouragement and positive feedback from the community. Of course, there are a few negative ones, but, overall, it is more positive.”
Sidebottom said she hopes similar local art projects are made in Indiana to show support social justice causes.
“It needs to be heard, and the more people talk about it, it will,” she said.