Tuesday, 1 April 2014



Wrapped traffic cabinet by Gary Taxali (source)

This year's Outside the Box project has recently been announced (March 25, 2014). As part of StART's (StreetARToronto)  the Outside the Box project covers traffic light boxes in "graphically attractive, synthetic wrap." 15 boxes feature artworks by Gary Taxali and photographic images by Moira McElhinney. The StART website includes brief descriptions about the artists and their work:

"Taxali is one of Canada’s best-known and highly acclaimed artists. His signature pop culture works are infused with 1930s-style packaging, posters, typography and advertising with original and sophisticated characters and graphics onto distressed surfaces... McElhinney was a Toronto photographer who produced work that focused predominantly on nature and panoramic landscapes...Fascinated by the beauty and simplicity of the everyday world she lives in, her work is predominately of nature and panoramic landscapes."

Wrapped traffic cabinet by Moira McElhinney (source)

It appears that there are still 15 spaces in the 2014 Outside the Box project for local artists to submit art works. The deadline is April 22. From the website: "The City of Toronto invites local area artists to submit proposals to create art on City traffic signal boxes at various locations throughout Toronto. The goal of this project is to provide opportunities for artists to create works of art that contribute to the vitality and attractiveness of the streetscape."

Last year's project produced 20 hand-painted boxes by a number of artists. The list of artists and locations are on the website. Some photos can be seen in this flickr photostream.The art is meant to "enhance the streetscape by adding works of art to surfaces that are often targeted by vandalism." The art, once it is applied, is coated in a "vandal resistant clear coat."

A similar project has also been completed in the city of Calgary, AB. Their Painted Utility Box Program has been running since 2010, they maintain that the pilot program reduced graffiti by 89%. All of the boxes can be seen on the city of Calgary website. The town of Canmore, AB also initiated a similar program in 2013. My own home town of Cochrane, AB has put synthetic wraps on their utility boxes that feature scenic and natural images.

"Colour Of The Harvest" by Karen Scarlett located at 20 Avenue & 4 Street NW in Calgary. Photograph property of Karen Scarlett

As I was doing research on this project, I found I was more interested in the idea of images of nature being put on traffic or utility boxes in an urban "streetscape" than I was in the idea of art vs. graffiti.  In Toronto, nature is represented in Moira McElhinney's photographic work and in Calgary there are a number of boxes that feature naturalistic scenes or nature in the work.

Utility box in Calgary, AB (source)
I wonder what the works say about urbanization, the growth of towns (particularly in Cochrane's case) and the displacement of nature. I think there is a lot that can be said about this project including: the original-ness of the project, the hand-painted vs. wrapped boxes, art vs. graffiti and the cost of the project. What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. I am so fascinated and excited to see such cool art projects emerging in the fabric of different cities. I think you are right to notice how these representations of nature contrast interestingly with the highly urban environment of cities. I think it is such a strong statement to bring things that are inspired by nature (even if they are made out of fiberglass, such as the cows in the cow parade events, http://www.cowparade.com/ or painted on urban objects).