Southwest Austin neighbors decorate yards, create art walks for locals to enjoy on social distancing-friendly walks

Emilia Shively draws a rainbow to inspire those who walk on her street. (Courtesy Tina Shively)
Emilia Shively draws a rainbow to inspire those who walk on her street. (Courtesy Tina Shively)

Emilia Shively draws a rainbow to inspire those who walk on her street. (Courtesy Tina Shively)

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Menchaca Elementary School librarian Rita Painter set a display of a stuffed Winnie The Pooh reading a book to friends to remind her students to continue to read stories while not at school. (Courtesy Rita Painter)
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JoAnna Foster said she was very impressed with some of the artists in her neighborhood. (Courtesy JoAnna Foster)
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Children decorate their driveway with chalk art. (Courtesy JoAnna Foster)
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Jaimie Hambrick set a large teddy bear outside in Circle C Ranch. (Courtesy Jaimie Hambrick)
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Over 30 homes in the Ledgestone community have participated in a chalk art gallery. (Courtesy JoAnna Foster)
Leaving the house to go for walks for the health benefits or to walk a pet is currently classified an essential activity, so it is permitted under the city of Austin and Travis County's ongoing stay-at-home orders, as long as those out of the house practice proper social distancing requirements and stay at least 6 feet away from one another.

While some residents have enjoyed searching for wildflowers along public trails, others have stuck to the familiar, walking along similar neighborhood sidewalks each day. In some Southwest Austin and Dripping Springs neighborhoods, residents have been decorating sidewalks, lawns and windowsills so neighbors have something different to look at each day as they walk.

JoAnna Foster, a resident of the Ledgestone community near Dripping Springs, posted to Nextdoor when the stay-at-home order became official, asking the community to create a chalk art gallery for neighbors to enjoy in the neighborhood. Since then, she said she has seen over 30 homes in the area participate, with children creating chalk art or writing positive messages.

The idea, she said, was inspired by Linda Atkinson, an art teacher at Rooster Spring Elementary School who typically displays students' work at the school every year as an art gallery. Foster said Atkinson continued to post pictures of her student’s artwork online in lieu of the official gallery at school.

“I thought we could do our own art gallery or walk in the neighborhood,” Foster said. “I threw it out on Nextdoor, and people just took it over. I was surprised.”

Residents in other neighborhoods, including Circle C Ranch Tanglewood and Shady Hollow, have set stuffed animals in their windows or have decorated their yards to give children something to look for while walking the neighborhood.

Rita Painter, a librarian at Menchaca Elementary School in South Austin, set a display of a stuffed Winnie The Pooh reading books to his friends at her house in the Knolls of Slaughter Creek. She said it is meant to remind her students to continue to read stories while not at school.

Similar campaigns have taken place across the world. Ledgestone resident Tina Shively said her daughter, Emilia, drew inspiration for her sidewalk chalk art from the "rainbow hunt" campaign. Rainbow hunt encourages children to draw or display rainbows and post them to their windows at home to inspire those who walk by.

Similarly, national parenting website What To Do With Kids is calling for children and parents to draw or paint objects to place in windows, creating a neighborhood scavenger hunt, according to a news release from the site. A suggested alternative by the group is to display some holiday decorations as long as the local homeowners association will allow for decorations out of season. Ultimately, the goal is to give walkers something to look for on their trips as they are outside on occasion to get exercise and fresh air while social distancing.

“It’s been awesome [seeing neighbors around],” she said. “I think we had perfect weather for a while, so you can go for a walk any time of the day. We've been doing like three walks a day, and I’m seeing so many people that I've never gotten to meet. So it's actually a good way to meet your own neighborhood.”
By Nicholas Cicale
Nick has been with Community Impact Newspaper since 2016, working with the Lake Travis-Westlake and Southwest Austin-Dripping Springs editions. He previously worked as a reporter in Minnesota and earned a degree from Florida State University.


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