Good News: Public art project to grow in 2019

Group plans another 20 traffic signal control boxes
Laurel-Lee Lipski, left, Carole Warburton and Deb Carpenter paint a traffic signal box in August.
Laurel-Lee Lipski, left, Carole Warburton and Deb Carpenter paint a traffic signal box in August.

Editor’s Note: As we pause to celebrate the holidays and reflect on the year, we are shining fresh light this week on some of the brightest good news stories of 2018. The stories have been updated to include new developments since their original publication. The following is an update of a story that ran on the front of the Local section in  the June 23 edition. The original story, by reporter Andrew Beam, is included below the update. The two stories are separated by diamonds.

SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady Art Society painted nine traffic signal control boxes in the city and is looking to do more in 2019, according to president Deb Carpenter.

The group kicked off the public art project in June by creating neighborhood-themed paintings on each of the boxes. The hope was to add some color to the city, and so far, Carpenter believes the effort has succeeded.

“I can’t tell you how much positive feedback we got from the community,” Carpenter said. “We had trucks driving by and beeping their horns while saying, ‘That’s awesome.’”

The project also has caught the attention of other local artists, Carpenter said.

“Some of the artists contacted me directly because they had heard the Schenectady Art Society members were working on these, and they wanted to take part in all of the fun,” Carpenter said.

The group would have painted more of the boxes in 2018, if it weren’t for some issues they had with the weather — rain and extreme heat — in the months of July and August, she added.

Carpenter said once the paint is on and a coating of clear paint is added to prevent graffiti, the artwork holds up well. It is when the paint is first applied and drying that inclement weather becomes a problem.

“The paint bubbles and slides off the box,” Carpenter said. “We needed it to be a little cooler.”

Carpenter said when the project was introduced, she hoped to work with SUNY Schenectady County Community College, Schenectady ARC and the City Mission of Schenectady. So far, the society has completed one of the projects with the City Mission and has plans to do one with SCCC. Finishing touches have to be put on the one the society did with Schenectady ARC.

“We just have one little design piece to do — that’s what we’re waiting on,” Carpenter said of the Schenectady ARC project. “We’re hoping the design holds up through the winter because it hasn’t been coated.”

The group also began putting its own watermark on each of the paintings: a bumble bee. Carpenter said the society didn’t start adding that detail until after the third box, but she said the plan is to include them in each art project.

“We can’t really live without bumble bees, because they pollinate the earth,” Carpenter said. “They are the seed of life.”

Carpenter said the group received about $375 in donations. They also got primer paint and paint brushes donated to them by Lowe’s Home Improvement.

They are still looking for donations, mainly because they don’t want to run out of paint, Carpenter said; the group is hoping to decorate an additional 20 traffic signal control boxes in 2019.


SCHENECTADY — Those seemingly ubiquitous silver traffic signal control boxes seen throughout the city will be getting a bit of a makeover.

Members of the Schenectady Arts Society have partnered with the city to begin painting neighborhood-themed designs on each of the boxes. The intent behind them, according to Schenectady Arts Society President Deb Carpenter, is to add some color to the city.

“We want to raise awareness of original artwork and getting folks to appreciate original artwork,” Carpenter said. “Anyone can go to a department store and buy a reproductive print to put over their couch. But when you have something that’s been hand-painted, an original design by a local artist, I think it gives a little more meaning to know the work that goes into that and promote the appreciation of original artwork.”

The first piece created for the project was unveiled by some members in front of Proctors during an event on Friday.  Carpenter was on hand with other Schenectady Art Society members, including Vince Forte and Laurel-Le Lipski.

The piece takes on an entertainment theme, with images of the comedy and tragedy symbol facing the buildings, musical notes and instruments on the sidewalk sides of the box, then a silhouette of a ballerina on a stage on the street side.

The initial phase of the project will be to have paintings on at least 12 of the boxes along the intersections on State Street, Erie Boulevard and Ferry Street. Alex Sutherland, director of operations for Schenectady, said the hope is to take the project citywide.

“We’re looking to get input from residents throughout the city about designs they want to see in their local neighborhood,” Sutherland said.

Before they create a piece, artists will go over the design concepts with the city. Once they get city approval, they can get to work.

When one of the pieces of artwork is complete, the city will then put a type of clear paint that will prevent people from putting graffiti on it.

Carpenter also mentioned they plan to partner with a few different organizations for the boxes in front of their establishments. This includes Schenectady County Community College, Schenectady ARC and City Mission of Schenectady.

Carpenter said they were working with those organizations to go over design concepts.

The idea for the project came up at the end of last year after Carole Warburton, a member of the Schenectady Art Society, came back from a trip to Rochester.

Warburton said she noticed the artwork had a theme that was related to the neighborhood they were in or the history of the city.

“They were wonderful,” Warburton said. “They were graphic, they were bright and they just added so much to the street.”

Sutherland said he had also seen those designs. So, when the arts society had approached the city about doing the project, he already knew what they were referring to.

“We all thought it was a great idea,” Sutherland said.

 Mayor Gary McCarthy said the paintings on the boxes will display the talent the city’s residents have and will add value to the neighborhoods.

“When you walk by [the boxes] otherwise, it’s probably something you didn’t even notice before,” McCarthy said. “It’s just there. It blends it. Now, it stands out. You’re probably going to stop and look at it a bit.”

While the first of the boxes is completed, Carpenter said the group is looking for potential donors for more supplies. This includes donations of primer paint, acrylic paints and the larger house paint brushes.

Carpenter also said they will accept monetary donations.

The painting on the box in front of Proctors was already having an impact, Carpenter said.

“People have been giving smiles while we’re working on it,” Carpenter said. “Some people are even coming back to see the finished product.”

Warburton also said people have been interacting with them as they worked on the piece.

“They walk by and they’re looking, they’re asking questions about art, like how was the original art made?” Warburton said. “It’s just all positive.”

If you are looking to make a donation or have any ideas for other designs, you can contact Carpenter at 518-527-3375.

If you are looking to make a monetary donation, send them to the Schenectady Art Society, c/o Shanta Nair, 10 Mountainwood Dr., Scotia, N.Y. 12302 and make the checks out to the Schenectady Art Society.

Categories: News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County


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