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VCU student’s mural educates and illustrates

Painting over parking garage explores “invisible danger” of heat islands

A colorful mural on the side of a parking garage depicting two stylized figures, as seen from a nearby parking lot

Pearl’s mural, as seen from a nearby parking lot

Photo by RICtoday

You may have noticed a new mural overlooking Lombardy Street near Broad. The piece, painted by VCU undergrad Sirena Pearl, serves as both an art piece and an educational installation.

The mural centers around urban heat islands, a phenomenon in which specific neighborhoods in cities are significantly warmer than others, often as a result of historic redlining. This occurs when natural features like trees are replaced by heat-absorbing materials like concrete.

The mural exemplifies the effects of heat islands in its two central figures. One represents a heat island and one personifies a cool, sustainable city. The paint used for the former, however, is designed to absorb heat, meaning that side of the mural will be significantly hotter.

The project was inspired by an exhibit at the Science Museum of Virginia called “See the Heat,” a joint undertaking with researchers from the University of Richmond. “See the Heat” took infrared readings of preexisting murals around the city, measuring the effects of paint color and wall location on murals’ absorption of heat. Using this data, researchers could provide recommendations on how to mitigate heat islands’ effects.

Pearl’s mural was designed to test the effects of heat-absorbing and solar-reflecting paints on the same data. She set up an infrared camera to measure its temperature and will be taking data for research until October.

See the mural for yourself at VCU’s Bowe Street parking garage, or enjoy the view from a nearby lot.

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