Deering High School student Emily Segal, center, paints a Deering Pride crosswalk with help from Jonna Rosenthal, left, along Leland Street near the high school Monday. Segal is painting several crosswalks around Deering High for LGBTQ Pride, mental health awareness, Black Lives Matter and climate change. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

The sun was beating down on the pavement outside Deering High School on Monday afternoon but junior Emily Segal seemed to hardly notice as she worked laying tape and setting up painting supplies on one of the crosswalks outside the school.

“The painting really is the easiest and most fun part,” said Segal, 16, pausing for a break as her father, Scott Segal, helped clean the street and prep the area in the 90-degree heat.

Emily Segal removes debris from a crosswalk as Jonna Rosenthal paints it. The crosswalk along Leland Street is now the Deering Pride crosswalk. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

It was the second day of what the high school junior anticipates will be a four-day project to paint the crosswalks near Memorial Field on Leland Street and at the intersection of Ludlow Street, Leland Street and Columbia Road.

When complete, the five crosswalks will show colors representing LGBTQ+ pride, mental health awareness, climate change, Black Lives Matter and Deering school spirit.

The public art project is intended to bring awareness to social justice issues and connect the school community to the surrounding neighborhood and the city. It also received special approval from the city’s Public Art Committee to stay in place until it weathers, whereas most student art projects are permitted for 30 to 60 days.

Segal, who is using the project as her senior capstone next year, said she was inspired by the involvement of her parents, Scott and Amy Segal, in the Deering Center Neighborhood Association, the existing rainbow crosswalk near Ocean Avenue Elementary and social justice movements unfolding around the country.

“I felt like with the whole year of social injustice and the protests happening and everything that needs to be changed in the world coming to light right now, I think it’s really important,” Segal said. “I think this is a great way to show the diversity in our community and in our school.”

On Monday, Segal, one of her teachers and two student volunteers were working to paint the crosswalk between the high school and Memorial Field with purple stripes — the school color — to illustrate Deering pride. A block down the street, Segal and other students already have completed an LGBTQ+ crosswalk with rainbow colors and a BLM crosswalk with shades of brown.

The LGBTQ Pride crosswalk was painted by Deering High School student Emily Segal with help from volunteers on Columbia Road near Deering High. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Before the end of the week they’ll complete a yellow-and-green crosswalk using the colors of the mental health awareness flag and a blue-and-green crosswalk for climate change. The white stripes of the crosswalks will remain while the colors will fill in the normally blank pavement in between.

Helen Bright, a social studies teacher who has had Segal in class, said it’s been hard for students to coordinate and organize this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m so proud of her for doing this,” Bright said. “It’s been really hard to organize people this year, so the fact she was able to coordinate with other people, with the city, it’s a real testament to how resilient and perseverant she is but also how other students are also continuing to persevere. It’s nice to see a physical celebration of that.”

Jonna Rosenthal, a volunteer helping with the painting Monday, said the project is indicative of Deering students’ focus on social justice causes. “I think Deering students are generally pretty excited and willing to help with social justice causes,” said Rosenthal, a recent graduate. “There are definitely a lot of student-life groups who are excited and willing to help when there are opportunities like this.”

Deering High School students, left to right, Shay Rosenthal, Jonna Rosenthal and Emily Segal work to paint the Deering Pride crosswalk on Leland Street on Monday. Buy this Photo

Street murals in Portland require a street occupancy permit and safety plan to ensure safe installation for artists and to assess traffic impacts. In addition to getting a permit from the Public Art Committee, Segal also worked with the city’s public works department to plan for traffic flow and talked with her school and the area’s city councilors.

She recruited student volunteers and secured a grant from the nonprofit Painting for a Purpose and a donation of paint from Maine Paint.

“We have a lot of diversity in our school – different languages, people from different countries,” Segal said. “This just feels like the right thing to do to add some color, but also to show how diverse we are because I think that’s really important.”

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