Robert Hartley with his work in progress traffic box art on Wednesday Aug. 22, in Muncie, IN. Hartley’s traffic box can be found on the corner of West Charles Street and South High Street. Kyle Crawford, DN
Muncie Arts and Culture Council, 12 artists adapt traffic box painting project to fit community
Since last summer, the Muncie Arts and Culture Council (MACC) has been planning a project that adds a pop of color and breath of life to Muncie’s traffic control boxes.
The Box! Box! Project kick-started Aug. 18 when artist Bob Hartley began painting the first of 12 boxes. Hartley, along with 11 other artists, will complete the project by the end of October.
“Painting these traffic boxes really impacts the community... just like any other public opportunity for artistic or creative expression, it brings people together and it gives them excitement about the quality of life that Muncie is able to offer,” said Braydee Euliss, MACC executive director. “Public art is always one of those things that contributes to the individual identity and authenticity of a community, so I’m excited for Box! Box! to be able to do that as well.”
While the idea to paint traffic control boxes didn’t originate in Muncie, Hartley said that his design, which draws people’s attention to Downtown, along with all the others are unique.
“The architecture of a city tells a story about its history, and the buildings are great examples of what Muncie was like in the gas-boom days,” Hartley said. “It is so easy to become so busy with our day-to-day lives that we don’t take the time to notice the beauty around us. Our buildings reflect our heritage, and we should embrace it.”
Hartley volunteered to paint the first traffic control box located at the corner of High St. and Charles because the MACC committee suggested that a “sample Box! Box!” might help spark more interest in the community.
As a retired Muncie Southside High School art teacher, Hartley had a few ideas before deciding upon depicting the “walkways, storefronts, restaurants, musical venues, galleries, specialty shops and studios” in Muncie. Hartley chose this route to provide people with “magnifying glasses that would give them closer looks at a few of Muncie’s gems.”
“It is my hope that the sudden appearance of something new and different to the daily landscape will cause the public to slow down and take a look at their surroundings,” Hartley said.
In order to launch the pilot program, the MACC was given a $5,000 budget by the City of Muncie this year, which is half of the city’s total public art fund. Scrap, design, artist materials and artist payments were all factored into the budget.
Euliss said MACC and the City of Muncie hope the pilot leads to more grants as “there will be plenty of other boxes left to be painted.”
Currently, three box artists and their designs have been approved, and the MACC is working on assigning the others. Individuals interested in joining the Box! Box! Project can apply until the Aug. 31 deadline.
Although Hartley was not able to complete his box design in the first session, he said he is pleased with his art progress.
“I was a little anxious as to what to expect with the actual painting on a metal traffic signal box, but most passersby have been very hopeful to see something new going in and on downtown,” Hartley said. “I have always been an advocate for the arts and for making our community better through involvement with the arts. I am excited about the project, and I hope others will be too.”