Occidental College Collaborates with Community Partners on Yosemite Drive Street Mural

Laura Paisley Photos by Marc Campos

Featuring 4,000 square feet of painted asphalt at a dangerous intersection near campus, “Boesche Way” is a street redesign and public safety project conceived in honor of the late Arthur G. Coons Professor in the History of Ideas Roger Boesche.

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It was an unusually warm winter Saturday in Los Angeles as students and community members assembled on Yosemite Drive with their paint rollers and sun hats. Volunteers partnered with a professional artist team to paint the asphalt in front of Eagle Rock High School and Yosemite Recreation Center.

“Seeing people from so many different communities in the Eagle Rock and Highland Park area was an inspiring experience,” says Occidental College volunteer Eran Karmon ’26. “Students from Eagle Rock High School, neighborhood community members, Oxy students, and arts organizers in the area don't often cross paths in such a direct way, and it made me feel more connected to the community outside of Occidental.”

So why asphalt art? Locals have long considered the crosswalk at the intersection of Yosemite Drive and La Roda Avenue dangerous due to speeding, and studies have shown asphalt murals can actually make intersections safer. The arts-driven street redesign was meant to address safety concerns and community needs while allowing for a partnership between neighbors and students to create the artwork. It also serves as a model for other neighborhoods in the city.

The Yosemite project represents a partnership between Occidental, Oxy Arts, Eagle Rock High School, and LA Parks & Recreation. Additional support came from the LA Department of Transportation (LADOT) and Bloomberg Associates in New York City. Over the last year, work on the initiative has included site visits, surveys within the community and formal reviews of street safety plans with the city.

“‘Boesche Way’ serves as a model for the most meaningful type of College and community partnership, in which residents, institutions and public agencies collaborate to address community-wide issues, share resources and improve wellbeing,” says Occidental President Harry J. Elam, Jr.

Janette Sadik-Khan ’82, a NYC transportation commissioner and principal with Bloomberg Associates, led the effort to create ‘Boesche Way’ (pronounced “Bo-shay way”) as a Boesche Society co-chair. Prof. Boesche inspired generations of Occidental students, including President Barack Obama. 

Professor Boesche did more than teach politics—he challenged students, colleagues, families and friends to practice active democracy and to engage in the public ideas, policies and debates that shape lives,” she says. “This project places Roger’s message at the intersection of education and public life, where his work and values have always belonged.”

The work, funded via Occidental College and the Boesche Society, borrows from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Asphalt Art Initiative, an international program that, to date, has helped 90 cities around the world implement arts-driven street designs.

After soliciting feedback regarding the neighborhood’s preferred artistic vision, the team partnered with local artist Andrew Armstrong, who also created street artwork in Calexico, CA. The result was a design that includes a silhouette of an eagle, evoking the neighborhood of Eagle Rock and the mascot of nearby Eagle Rock High School. The design also features poppies, the California state flower, and tiger paw prints, a nod to Occidental’s tiger mascot. 

“My hope is that the project creates a safer pedestrian experience and is welcomed by the neighborhood so that we can recreate this community magic in more places across the city and beyond,” Armstrong says.

LADOT is also studying feasibility for additional traffic safety improvements, including crossing time for pedestrians, a lower speed limit and increased visibility at crosswalks with new red-painted curbs. The asphalt mural was designed to designate access for pick-up and drop-off, parking and other neighborhood access needs. 

Moving forward, the street redesign team will analyze the traffic safety and mobility impacts of the Yosemite project to ensure its goals were achieved and to consider locations for similar projects in the future.

Oxy Arts Director Meldia Yesayan says that as a local resident deeply rooted in the community and a parent with connections to the high school, the Yosemite project resonates unequivocally with her.

“It captures the essence of community spirit and embodies the vital intersection of art and civic engagement that lies at the heart of Oxy Arts mission.”

President Elam emphasized the College’s pride in supporting this project, which does even more than honor the legacy of a distinguished and beloved faculty member.

“It also exemplifies the College's commitment to reciprocal community interaction and to strengthening our mutually beneficial relationship with Los Angeles.”

Additional reporting by Rachael Warecki