Beautiful Metal Boxes
I noticed the first one in my neck of the woods, West Seattle, at the intersection of SW Alaska and Fauntleroy Way SW. The mysterious cube of metal was painted with bold orange and blue circles. Stark against a solid turquoise background, they broke above the strokes of a mountain cascade. The design reminiscent of a Japanese painting. I felt a little strange walking around this box, otherwise a mundane structure that, as far as I could tell, no one else seemed as taken by.
But I was. Especially as I began to see more and more of them all over Seattle. In Belltown where I work, there are four within a three to four block radius. Each one is unique, emblems of different styles and themes. It became a treasure hunt, finding these boxes of art planted poignantly at the corners of streets, yet remaining elusive, as people and cars constantly passed by without any notice to them.
So what is the purpose of these metal things?
Traffic signal control.
I grew even more fond of these boxes. It made my day. I think the reason for my enamor is these boxes serve an important role that directly affects our day to day lives, but are more often than not, completely uninspiring visually. So to be brought to life by the touch of a local artist, intentionally seeking to express a message connected to the community this particular box was home to, is a brilliant example of art expressed in the urban setting. The organic meets the steel of the city.
7th Ave & Blanchard St
2nd Ave & Blanchard St
Not all, but most are marked with the artists name and here is where I got to delve in more behind the artistic expression.
On quite a few of the boxes was the collective project created by Urban Artworks in association with Downtown Seattle Association. Urban Artworks is a super cool organization, its mission is creating public art that empowers young people and transforms communities. They've been providing artistic opportunities to youth and local artists since 1995. I read into the process of turning these gray blank canvases into art from The Fremoncentrist (a pretty great site on all things Fremont neighborhood) and it was fascinating to read of just how much work went into their revitalization. The steps to gather funding, communicate with the city and members of each neighborhood to approve designs, the legality, and creative communal spirit has resulted in 50+ painted signal boxes (as of 2012).
Westlake ave & lenora st
Westlake Ave N & 6th Ave
1st Ave & Stewart St
Some of the others, such as this one above, were created by Jesse Brown and Todd Lown, both contributers to the ArtWorks program. The creativity never ends! I love how each is unique.
1st Ave & pine St
N 35th & Fremont PL N
N 46th & Fremont Ave N
N 35th & Fremont Ave N
I'm so excited to discover more of these beautiful signal boxes. There is something compelling about your eye being caught unaware by artistry. I passed by them dozens of times, for months, without ever glancing their way, but when I finally took notice of that one in West Seattle, an awareness bloomed. I now not only take more notice of the art all around me, but take time to appreciate the creator behind the art. I see too the benefits of such opportunities for those artists, a continual relationship.
It's a lovely reminder that there is beauty to be noticed among the concrete if we take a moment and see around us.
N 38th & Aurora ave N