Downtown traffic box art wants new ideas

Friday, December 23, 2011 | 3:48 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The city is inviting local artists to submit applications to paint another traffic box downtown. Application deadline is Feb. 6.

The latest traffic signal box is at the corner of Sixth and Walnut streets. This is the fifth art box to be painted since the project began in 2009.


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Sarah Skaggs, program specialist of the Office of Cultural Affairs, said the goal is to reduce graffiti on the surfaces of downtown traffic signal boxes and at the same time make them more appealing.

“We are very open to different kinds of styles," she said. "We are looking for something dynamic and interesting, which can add to the collections we already have."

The four painted boxes were done by the artists on site, but graphic design proposals are also welcome. The city has technology to print a design on vinyl and then adhere it to the traffic box.

In order to participate, applicants must be local residents or have an understanding of the community’s culture.

"We want to reflect the vitality of the community," Skaggs said.

Applicants need to submit a resume, contact information, two professional references, design proposal and a statement of purpose.

The city budgets $2,000 for each painted box. That includes $1,500 for the artist and $500 for materials.

The city’s Standing Committee on Public Art, made up of artists, arts professionals, community representatives and project staff, will review applications and choose proposal. Skaggs said Carrie Gartner, executive director of The District, is among the judges.

Applications will be evaluated on the basis of artistic and technical merits as well as relevance of proposed design.

“We maintain a mailing list of artists that are interested in this project," Skaggs said.  "There are more than 100 local artists in the list. That’s the best way to reach people.”

The lifespan of the boxes is 15 to 20 years, as long as there is no traffic or other damage. The painted boxes are sealed with a graffiti coating, she said.

Skaggs said she thinks the project can help build awareness among graffiti artists to be more respectful and help protect the traffic signal boxes.

“A lot of people will be appreciate if they go there and see artists painting the boxes,” Skaggs said. “It is more enjoyable for the pedestrians.”

The project is promoted by the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the Columbia Police Department and The District.

For more information or to participate, contact Skaggs at 874-6387 or via email at


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Gerald Shelnutt December 25, 2011 | 6:34 a.m.

"The painted boxes are sealed with a graffiti coating, she said."

I thought that was graffiti! What ever it is it's not art.

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