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Researchers create coloring book about Purple Line

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Posted on: July 9, 2024

By LILLIAN GLAROS

Children and adults used colored pencils, crayons and markers to scribble on free coloring books in the University of Maryland’s (UMD) The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on June 28 as they learned about the impact that Purple Line construction is having on Riverdale residents.

Reemeberto Rodriguez III, who attended an June event unveiling a coloring book about the Purple Line, uses colored markers to fill in some pictures.
PHOTO CREDIT: Lillian Glaros

The 14-page coloring book, Transit & Transition: A Bridge to Rapid Change, is based on research conducted by a group of UMD-based organizations and others about how the community feels about the coming of the Purple Line and its potential impact on housing prices, jobs and the mental well-being of those who live nearby.

“The idea was, let’s talk to people in the community about their perspectives about the Purple Line and about neighborhood change, and create something useful to reflect that information back,” said Sheila Somashekhar, director of the Purple Line Corridor Coalition at UMD and a co-lead for the project. 

The coalition, along with the Transverse Cooperative, The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center and the UMD School of Public Health, unveiled the coloring book to more than two dozen attendees at a 1.5-hour event at the Cafritz Foundation Theater at The Clarice.

The project was a way to start discussions about Purple Line development, said Somashekhar, who noted that a coloring book is a way to share research with an audience beyond academia.

“I also hope that … we think about what research looks like and what research can mean, not just in a traditional [way], like, ‘We’re going to do research and publish in a journal,’ but to do research that is … accessible to the community,” she said after the event.

Other groups, including the UMD Center for Health Equity, Greater Riverdale Thrives, the Latin American Youth Center and the Central Kenilworth Avenue Revitalization Community Development Corp. also contributed to the project.

The event started with a documentary that summarized the community research that was the basis of the project and was funded by a Healthy Places seed grant from the UMD schools of Public Health and of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. 

A read-aloud session of the coloring book was next on the agenda. Ellie Yanagisawa, one of the coloring book artists, walked around the room, giving the microphone to willing youth and adult readers, who recited lines from the book, such as, “The Purple Line promised investment into the community, but will we experience the benefits?”

“The fact that [the artists] had us read aloud, and that the kids were so comfortable to do that — amazing,” Stephen Thomas, director of the UMD Center for Health Equity and a co-investigator for the project, said after the event. “They’re walking around with their books:

their books, not their parents’ books. To me, that’s the ultimate success.”

Yanagisawa and co-artist Camila Tapia-Guilliams explained the design process and choices behind the coloring book.

“It was just this wonderful collection of stories, anxieties, hopes and dreams that we heard from the people and it was kind of up to us … just to go through all the interviews and synthesize a narrative from it,” Yanagisawa said.

The artists said they expressed the sentiments of the community on paper, such as the effects of noise pollution created by the construction and a wish for more green spaces and affordable housing around the above-ground light rail, scheduled to open in late 2027.

Tapia-Guilliams, a 2019 UMD graduate who lives in Rockville, experienced Purple Line construction while a student in College Park.

“The whole time I was a student, I mean, the construction ripped through campus and it was very disruptive,” Tapia-Guilliams said after the event. “It just felt like … it was hard to find quiet outdoor spaces on campus that were easily accessible.”

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