During shelter-in-place, Dallas man builds community with sidewalk art

April 11th, 2020 / By: Jane Rodgers | Managing Editor / comments

DALLAS  With his once-busy suburban neighborhood now eerily quiet as residents adhere to Dallas County’s COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, one North Dallas man is seizing the rare opportunity to meet and encourage his neighbors with music and art, all from a safe distance.

Realizing his neighborhood “needed a time of community” amid the isolation, Dallas businessman Greg Rogers started playing his guitar outside.

“We have a circular driveway and our house is on a hill, raised up. There is a big hedge between us and the street,” he said, explaining that he could stand well apart from neighbors walking by below and still perform.

People stopped, made song requests and just visited, Rogers said. One woman confided she was struggling with family issues. They talked and she admitted she had wandered away from the faith of her childhood.

“I shared my testimony and my faith,” said Rogers, who with his wife, Amanda, and sons Ryan and Jackson, is a long-time member of Prestonwood Baptist Church. 

Looking down from his guitar-playing perch, Rogers saw another way to encourage his neighbors, a way that would last at least until the next rainstorm. 

The sidewalk in front of his home beckoned as a canvas.

“I thought, maybe I can go down and do something,” Rogers recalled. He decided to copy a piece people would recognize, creating a chalk rendition of Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte using children’s sidewalk chalk and charcoal sticks.

“He was Bert from Mary Poppins,” Amanda exclaimed as she watched her husband at work, referencing the 1964 Disney film.

Neighbors stopped, observing from a distance, taking turns walking across the street for close-ups of the artwork.

Soon they began leaving pictures for Rogers to do, sticking photos and suggestions in the yard’s large holly hedge. He complied with a ballerina inspired by the impressionist Degas and a landscape modeled after Hobbema’s The Watermill with the Great Red Roof. 

He worked from photographs of the Loire Valley’s Château de Chenonceau in France for another sidewalk masterpiece. After rains washed it all away, he created Parisian scenes: Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.

One neighbor from the UK whose wife is from France has been taking photos that are now circulating among friends and family in Europe. Others have posted photos on social media.

The transitory nature of sidewalk art doesn’t bother Rogers. The self-taught artist has spent the last several years doing set design and painting backdrops for local theater companies and his children’s school, Trinity Christian Academy in Addison, where Amanda is the theater’s technical director and their younger son performs. 

He knows theater sets are meant to be deconstructed.

But for his neighborhood, even in a time of social distancing, Rogers is playing a part in seeing the community reconstructed.

With Easter's approach, Rogers rendered the entire Holy Week account in chalk to bless his neighbors and share the gospel. Dallas television station WFAA featured his efforts on the nightly news.

“Everyone was so regimented before,” Rogers mused. “Calendars were so full with things they were doing, mostly circling around their children. Now we are not so busy with all the activities. There’s more interaction among neighbors even though there’s social distancing.”