BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — A metal traffic signal control box doesn’t appear to be an ideal canvas for a work of art, but that’s where several local artists are adding splashes of color in downtown Bloomington.

“We’ve been working with the city to beautify these boxes and they gave us the green light earlier this year to do three,” said Downtown Bloomington Association Executive Director Tricia Stiller.

The city has authorization for six boxes downtown, said Bloomington Public Works Director Jim Karch, adding others on state routes are subject to the approval of Illinois Department of Transportation.

“This is kind of a pilot program to see how this goes,” said Karch. “We’re going to look to expand that in future, but we definitely don’t have the ability right now on state routes to do that.”

Karch added, “It’s an opportunity to brighten up the downtown with art, and the city does appreciate the partnership with the Downtown Bloomington Association on this.”

For its latest public art program project, the DBA is paying three local artists $250 apiece and providing acrylic paint to transform traffic signal control boxes at three locations.

“Many, many towns all over the country are painting their traffic boxes,” said Joann Goetzinger, a member of the DBA design committee, which selected three artists from applications submitted to paint the boxes. “Like the murals, it seems every community has them now.”

The DBA did not set a theme for the art being painted on boxes that are approximately 4 feet tall, 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep.

“We wanted them to think up something imaginative because there are so many artists and they all have different styles,” said Goetzinger.

“I love the circus and given McLean County’s history for being a winter home for circus (acts),” Bloomington artist Danell Dvorak said she came up with a circus theme for the traffic signal box she painted at Washington and Center streets near the McLean County Museum of History.

She painted red-and-white stripes representing a circus tent on one side, and a circus horse and a circus dog on the other sides.

Dvorak said she hopes people will use the box as a photo backdrop for cell phone camera “selfies” standing next to the dog or behind the horse’s body.

“That’s what people do, and if we want to drive tourists or locals to come downtown this is a unique ‘take your photo here’ opportunity,” she said.

The two other boxes are still being completed.

Artist Theresa Chambers plans to paint a silhouette of a grain elevator and rural landscape on the box at Center and Front streets near the McLean County Law and Justice Center; artist Rose Tuttle is painting the box at Main and Washington streets with a fish-bowl theme, said Goetzinger.

“We’ve had problems all summer because it’s been too hot or raining a lot,” said Goetzinger. “You can’t paint on something that is metal when it’s hot. The paint will not react well.”

Karch has asked the artists to use brighter colors because darker paint can actually heat up some of the electrical components inside the cabinets and possibly damage them.

Dvorak is excited about being able to contribute her art in the efforts to revitalize downtown Bloomington.

“Given that a lot of people are trying to raise the downtown up and really put community heart back into it … what better way for myself, as an artist, to contribute than to paint on one of these traffic control boxes.”

The city already has murals at 12 locations downtown.

“We’re doing more of those in the future, too,” said Goetzinger. “Because we have so many artists we’re trying to make this area be sort of a destination for people who want to see art. In my travels I’ve seen towns that advertise they have art, but they don’t have half of what we have here.”

Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph,

Information from: The Pantagraph,

This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by The (Bloomington) Pantagraph.