Wallingford neighbors painted the pavement of a residential street intersection with a loggerhead turtle design Saturday, in a project funded by the city's matching-grant program.

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Close off a road. Chalk in the outlines of an intricately-designed loggerhead turtle on the concrete pavement. Hand out paintbrushes, rollers and 40 gallons of paint, and invite the neighbors to make the street mural come to life.

After two days of work, you’ll end up with an eye-popping design that might possibly slow down traffic a little bit. But even better, you’ll create a sense of community among neighbors.

That’s the idea behind a giant street painting that began to take shape Saturday at North 41st Street and Interlake Avenue North in Wallingford, a residential street one block east of Stone Way North.

The project, which is costing $1,200 and is paid for in part with a city matching grant, is expected to continue Sunday, and the turtle should be finished by Sunday afternoon.

On Saturday, Ella Sauer, age 8, waltzed around the intersection barefoot, her toenails painted a pearly blue. She and several other children, including her sister Halle, 6, were in charge of scrubbing out errors in the chalk outline, so the design was clean and easy to follow.

Around her, adult volunteers used fat pieces of chalk to sketch in artist Rachel Marcotte’s fanciful loggerhead turtle, surrounded by leaves of kelp and bubbles of water. A neighborhood tabby cat wandered through the blocked-off intersection, seeming to supervise the progress.

Ella Sauer has an important role in this project: She suggested that the street painting feature a turtle, because, as she explained, “I like turtles a lot.”

It was her parents, Wendy and Michael, who came up with the idea to paint the intersection — inspired by a similar street painting of a ladybug at North 49th Street and Burke Avenue North in Wallingford, which itself was inspired by a street-painting movement in Portland that dates back to 1996.

“I think it’s an extremely good idea,” said Katrina Marro, age 11, who has admired the ladybug painting and came out Saturday to help. “I would love to see more of these.”

The ladybug — nicknamed the Wallybug — was created four years ago, and it really did pull the neighborhood together, said Lloyd Jansen, who worked on that project. “It’s a great way to meet people beyond your own street,” he said.

Street paintings start to fade after about a year, worn away by tires and rain. In Jansen’s neighborhood, everyone gathers once a year in the summer to repaint the ladybug, which takes about two hours.

When they’re done, residents throw a big neighborhood party.

Even before the turtle began to take shape, the project built new friendships among neighbors in the 41st-and-Interlake neighborhood, Michael Sauer said.

Bill Lindberg, a retired Boeing engineer, took the idea and ran with it, filling out all the forms needed to secure city permission and grant money.

Sixty percent of the neighbors on both streets had to OK the project; the response was a unanimous yes from everyone, Sauer said. An e-mail list was created, and somebody plans a blog.

“It’s created this whole neighborhood awareness,” he said.

Lindberg talked Marcotte, a graphic artist, into drawing the design. Marcotte readily agreed because, she said, “it came from the grass roots of this neighborhood.”

It’s the biggest painting Marcotte has ever done; she’s primarily a botanical illustrator, and usually does small works in watercolors.

She especially likes that the painting is being done by so many individuals, all offering their talents, coming together to make a folk-art piece on the street.

“That’s where art belongs, it belongs to the people,” she said. “This is the best kind of art project — people not only take time to create it, but they will be able to enjoy it from day to day.”

Whether street painting helps calm traffic in neighborhoods is a matter of debate. Jansen says the ladybug seems to slow traffic, especially those drivers who come across it for the first time. But no one’s done a study.

Last time the Jansens flew home from a trip, one of his children looked out the window as the plane was approaching Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and spotted the ladybug from thousands of feet in the air.

It was a sign, Jansen said, that they were home.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com