- Griffin Swartzell
It's telling that a co-worker never noticed the once-silver traffic boxes dotting downtown corners until the Downtown Partnership put art on them. Last year, the Partnership started the INTERSECTION program — they put out a request for art to be printed on vinyl and attached to 13 traffic boxes downtown.
"We wanted a way to highlight local artists and 2D artists, because you don't get as much chance to put that up as public art," says Claire Swinford, Urban Engagement Manager for the Partnership. And with the sculpture-oriented Art on the Streets program's strong community response, it makes sense to give more artists a shot at beautifying their environment. "We'd seen this type of colorful vinyl wrap done on utility boxes in other cities."
Swinford, a former associate director of Indy Give! says that the local artistic community's response has been huge. So huge, in fact, that the Partnership has almost run out of boxes.
"Nearly all of them in the downtown core have been decorated at this point," she says. In 2015, the Partnership's jury — Valerie Lloyd of The Machine Shop, Laurel Justice of the Colorado Springs Public Art Commission, Gundega Spons of G44 Gallery, and Laszlo Palos of Poor Richard's — selected 13 pieces from 22 entries. The 2016 jury had a much wider selection. Lloyd and Spons, plus Angela Seals of COPPeR and BJ Byers of the Public Art Commission, came together to pick another six pieces from a staggering 72 entries.
"We have everything from bumper cars to Nikola Tesla, and it's a lot of fun," Swinford says. "We love to celebrate the breadth of what local artists choose to depict." With big name locals like Chris Alvarez, Liese and Kris Chavez, Phil Lear and Abigail Kreuser contributing, it's no surprise there's both variety and quality on display.
All of the box wraps were privately funded, with each costing around $300.
"Colorado Springs doesn't put any tax revenue towards the arts, unlike most other cities our size," Swinford explains. Many were sponsored by downtown businesses, from banks to design firms, plus (full disclosure) the Independent and the Gazette (who says we never agree on anything?).
Of course, the Partnership had to factor in a few technical requirements. The designs are all printed on UV- and graffiti-resistant vinyl. To keep the sensitive electronics inside each box from overheating, the designs are all in bright palettes to better reflect heat — about 75 percent heat-reflecting colors, Swinford says. Though the wraps are made to endure, Swinford acknowledges that they won't last forever. Still, even the first round of pieces the Partnership put up remain bright and beautiful.