When I was a kid, anytime a photo of me appeared in the local paper–usually as part of a school group–my mom would cut out the article and carefully paste it into a scrapbook. This small action was somehow disproportionately exciting. The gravitas of newspaper reporting added a legitimacy to everyday activities that could not be achieved any other way. “Look,” the newspaper clipping said, “something you were a part of was recognized by people other than your friends and family. It’s official.”
Now that bits of our lives are regularly shared with strangers through social media, you might expect that seeing yourself in a news article would no longer be that special. But in fact, it’s still kinda cool!
Over the summer, I participated in a public art program for the City of Danbury, CT, to dress up Downtown’s traffic signal control boxes with the work of local artists. Utility Box Art Projects have been popping up in cities all over the world in the past few years. Utility boxes house the equipment that controls the traffic signals at intersections. They are usually painted a nondescript gray or black, and frequently fall victim to vandalism. But forward-thinking cities like Danbury, have commissioned local artists to transform the blighted boxes into vibrant public art.
As a muralist, I am a big supporter of public art, and of getting art out of traditional spaces and into the community, so being invited to participate in Danbury’s Traffic Box Art Project was an exciting opportunity. I designed three boxes for the city, which were printed on vinyl wraps and installed by a local print shop.
In total, seven artists designed nearly a dozen boxes for the first wave of the project. It took nine months from the call for submissions to the installation of the art wraps, so an official ribbon cutting was a natural way to celebrate the completion of this positive, community-building endeavor. And, they decided to hold the ceremony in front of one of the boxes I had designed. Very cool!
On a sunny August morning, the artists, coordinators, city officials and community advocates gathered in front of my traffic box at Elm and Main. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said a few words. The youngest artist, eight-year-old Sophie, held the oversized scissors. And the Danbury News-Times was there to document the occasion.
I read the News-Times article online the next morning. I shared it on the Mural Envy Facebook page. I saved the beautiful, high-quality photos to my phone. But that wasn’t enough. I had to go to the store and buy an actual paper copy of the News-Times, bring it home and carefully fold it into a scrapbook. Now, it’s official.
(Read the article for yourself here: https://www.newstimes.com/local/article/Downtown-Danbury-traffic-boxes-get-makeovers
And look for the beautiful traffic boxes next time you are driving or walking around Downtown Danbury!)