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Civic Impact

Art on traffic signal boxes catches attention of artists, residents, businesses & other cities

Canada Post Package - Margaret Cresswell

Starting as a pilot project in 2013, the city’s Outside the Box project has transformed about 125 traffic signal boxes into thought-provoking works of art, with 70 more boxes to be painted this year.
The original idea was to discourage graffiti vandalism (different from graffiti art where there’s permission from the property owner) by selecting artists to paint one-of-a-kind creations some of the city’s 2,3000 traffic signal boxes. Some work connects with the box’s actual location or play with the box’s size and shape, while contributions from artist Gary Taxali and the late photographer Moira McElhinney have been turned into graphic synthetic wraps that adorn multiple boxes. The artworks can’t include advertising, offensive material, copyrighted material or depict traffic lights, signs or signals—the last restriction is because such images could confuse drivers.
Noodle Heads - Iva Jericevic; Rac in a Box 2 - Jeff Blackburn; Roses - Anya Mielniczek
 “We have had just an incredible diversity of artists, ages and styles,” says project manager Lilie Zendel. “We get a lot of positive feedback on it. The BIAs ask if we could target their neighbourhoods. This year we’ve succeeded in having one in every ward. Other cities have experimented with this, but I don’t think any other city in North America has done it to the scale we have done it now. It really adds to the fabric of each neighbourhood. I call it a micro-investment. Just by having an artist there who beautifies a corner, it becomes a catalyst for people caring more about what their neighbourhood looks like.”
Artists are paid an honorarium of $500 for their works, which the city expects to last about five years after being sprayed with an anti-graffiti veneer. Boxes too close to the street to be safely painted aren’t included in the program, which excludes about a quarter of Toronto’s boxes. The city is also mapping the work to produce a website directory of the project. “We see this as a tool for tourism,” says Zendel.
The 2016 deadline for artists who want to apply to paint a traffic signal box is April 26. 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Lilie Zendel
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