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.