La Vida Local: Irregular Notes on West End Life
Make Your Mark in the Neighborhood!
The Traffic Signal Box Project
by Rosanne Graef
We’re surrounded by utilitarian objects. They may do their jobs well, but are downright ugly. Many things that are orthopedic in nature fall into this category, as well as lots of public infrastructure. Consider the gas and electric utility equipment, the meters, pipes and the rats’ nest of cables hanging from the telephone pole outside my kitchen window.
Every once in a while, though, an idea emerges and takes hold and that addresses some of this blight. The painting of traffic signal boxes (TSB) is one such idea that has finally come to Portland and now to the West End!
TSBs Around Town
You’ve probably noticed by now the boxes around Congress Square, on Cumberland Avenue, the Old Port and at Caldwell Park on Stevens Avenue. They were decorated last year. Maybe you have wondered where those designs came from. That project was facilitated by Rich Bianculli, the neighborhood prosecutor of the Portland Police Department, in cooperation with the Portland Public Art Committee.
This summer West End Neighborhood Association was awarded a mini-grant from Portland Trails for a TSB painting project. And we will take the concept in a little different direction.
First, though, why bother?
In addition to being nothing special to look at, TSBs are often targets for graffiti. When an object is not blank and it’s obvious that someone put some time and effort into creating it, tagging and graffiti are much less likely to appear.
WENA and Portland Trails also want to encourage people to get outdoors and explore the neighborhood on foot and by bike. So, we’re planning to make the TSBs informative.
The decorations will include stylized maps of the immediate area showing where local parks, trails and points of interest are located. The map will be on one large side of the TSB, and on the other will be a painting that focuses on a particular feature within view of the box. These may be realist, impressionist, cubist, fauvist, abstract… You name it. But, they will encapsulate an aspect of the West End that is readily identifiable and intimately associated with the neighborhood.
We need you!
In sum, the TSBs will be attractive, informative and less likely to be vandalized. And the process to create them will be grassroots driven. That’s where you come in. If you’re an adult who lives or works in the West End, or if you’re still a student who attended or is attending Reiche Elementary School, we want you to be a part of this project.
On Wednesday, October 18th, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., the TSB planning committee (Allison Villani, Charlotte Maloney, Clifford Tremblay, Ian Jacob and I) are hosting a kick-off event at the Reiche Community Room (use the Clark Street entrance). We’ll present the overview of the project, the details and process, the schedule, and we will explain how you can get involved.
In addition to improving the appearance of the TSBs, we hope this will be a fun community-building experience and hope to see you there.
P.S. You don’t have to be an artist, just love your neighborhood and have some good ideas!
Rosanne Graef is a West End resident.