Scoop: Meter Aid

Lisa Van LooJanuary 23, 2020
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A few Downtown Phoenix parking meters got a philanthropic makeover. 

As a mural artist, Chelsi Rossi had the tools and the experience needed to create an outdoor piece, commissioned by the city of Phoenix, that would be exposed to Arizona’s natural elements. She just needed to find a way to squeeze her piece onto the tiny, bumpy surface of a parking meter. “It was the smallest I’ve done,” she says, laughing at the realization.

The meter she painted is one of four stationed around Downtown Phoenix that don’t collect mandatory parking fees. Instead, the Giving Meters collect donations for homeless outreach and support services administered by PHX C.A.R.E.S., a program that focuses on engaging with the unsheltered homeless population to find long-term solutions. The meter Rossi painted is mobile, while the others have been installed permanently near the Arizona Center, City Hall and the Superior Court complex.

The project is a collaborative effort between the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, Artlink and the city of Phoenix, brought about after councilwoman Debra Stark saw something similar in her travels. Samantha Jackson, senior director of operations for the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, says there isn’t really an end date attached to the meters.

“It’s a pilot program now, but they’ll probably remain out permanently,” Jackson says. “There hasn’t been any negative feedback.”

The meters each have their own unique, eye-catching look, and accept both coin and credit donations, up to $20. They are looked after by Downtown ambassadors who ensure that the artwork on the meters remains intact, and revenue collected from the meters is monitored by the city’s meter program staff, who then turns it over to PHX C.A.R.E.S.

“It could be replicated in other areas,” Jackson says, hinting at how the meters could be used in a wider net throughout the city’s public spaces. “That’s what we’re looking for.”

Rossi appreciated the opportunity to use her talents to inspire positive action. She’s hopeful the message on her meter, which asks those who donate to recognize people in the homeless community as people, motivates those who donate to continue to support the community even after they step away from the meter.

“I want the person donating to think that what they are doing is a good thing, but what is the next step?” she says. “It’s a multifaceted thing. I don’t think donating is the end of it.”

Mete Ups

Giving Meters, repurposed parking meters installed in Downtown Phoenix, became a new kind of canvas for four local artists who were asked to create dainty, inspiring donation centers to aid with homeless outreach and support. Here is where you can give.

1 First Avenue and Jefferson Street
Meter designed by Lydia Quinones features vibrant colors running into each other.

2 Third and Van Buren Streets
Meter designed by Terri Petersen features bright colors and a large flower.

3 City Hall
Meter designed by Paige Poppe borrows colors from an Arizona sunset.

4 On Wheels
Meter designed by Chelsi Rossi features citrusy pastels and a watchful eye.

Photos by Lisa Van Loo
Photos by Lisa Van Loo