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'Art of the Box' program transforms Tallahassee traffic control boxes into public art

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Christopher Barnhart, the artist who created the Art of the Box traffic control box mural on the corner of East College Avenue and Adams Street downtown, talks about his inspiration for the piece titled "Infinite Possibilities" after it was revealed Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (Photo: Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat, Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat)

Before Wednesday's reveal, the city's traffic control boxes resembled big, beige four-sided lockers that few passersby would notice. 

They were breeding ground for tagging and graffiti. But, a new program called "Art of the Box" is bringing public art to unlikely spaces. 

Tallahassee is now following in the footsteps of metropolitan cities, such as New Orleans and West Palm Beach.

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"Research shows that when you put art in public spaces, especially on utilitarian items like a traffic control box, that the art deters future vandals," said Betsy Couch, executive director of the Knight Creative Communities Institute.

After Couch began researching how these cities approached their programs, she was intrigued and inspired.

It wasn't long before she sold the idea to city officials, who wholeheartedly backed the pilot program, especially as a graffiti deterrent.  

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Christopher Barnhart, the artist who created the Art of the Box traffic control box mural on the corner of East College Avenue and Adams Street downtown, talks about his inspiration for the piece titled "Infinite Possibilities" after it was revealed Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (Photo: Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat, Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat)

Six local artists offered colorful art infused, high-quality vinyl wrapping, provided by FASTSIGNS. Couch said the cost was minimal: in-kind contributions, $200 stipends and approximately $1,000 expense for each traffic control box. 

“This initiative supports and provides added exposure to local artists and celebrates our value to the community,” said Mary Liz Tippin-Moody, a participating artist, in a statement. “The Art of the Box initiative is an energizing and inclusive boost for this community's practicing artists.”

Contact TaMaryn Waters at tlwaters@tallahassee.com or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter. 

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Art of the Box locations (Photo: KCCI/Special to the Democrat)

  • East College Avenue and Adams Street with "Infinite Possibilities" by Christopher Barnhart
  • West Osceola and Wahnish Way with "Moving On” by Walter Thorner
  • Tharpe Street and Ocala Road with “Thin Red Line of Hope” by Mary Liz Tippin-Moody
  • Market Street and Timberlane Road with "Florida at Night" by Powell Kay Kreis
  • Buck Lake and Pedrick roads with "Southern Magnolias" by Nipa Eason
  • Near bridge walkway at Anita Davis Preserve with "Harmony" by Perdita Ross
  • Read or Share this story: https://www.tallahassee.com/story/money/2020/09/23/art-box-program-transforms-tallahassee-traffic-control-boxes-into-public-art/3503927001/

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