While waiting for traffic lights to change at busy intersections, Lodi residents will soon have the opportunity to view vibrant and colorful pieces of art.
Five traffic signal control stations — those almost 5-foot-tall, bland metal boxes — will get a facelift from local artists. By doing so, Lodi will join cities like Santa Cruz and Seattle in taking common, everyday objects and turning them into statement pieces about the community.
"It's a low-cost project that should really beautify the corners," said Deanie Bridewell, arts and events coordinator for the city. "People can actually get involved and become part of the art."
The city is currently looking for artists to submit proposals describing how they would like to paint one of the five boxes. The Art in Public Places fund will provide $100 to help artists cover supplies, mainly exterior sign-quality paint.
The boxes will be at the corners of Mills Avenue and Turner Road, Lower Sacramento Road and Lodi Avenue, Pine Street and Cherokee Lane, Hale Road and Cherokee Lane and the Costco corner at Harney Lane and Reynolds Ranch Road.
The idea came to the Art Advisory Board chairwoman Cathy Metcalf when she saw similar projects in other cities.
"I thought, 'Gosh, what great public art,'" Metcalf said. "Our fund is shrinking, and they are reducing the amount of money that can go into it if there is development, so we need to turn our attention toward ways to get public art into Lodi that doesn't cost a lot of money."
The board took the idea to Lodi's transportation department, which selected five locations based on visibility and where new boxes were located, said Paula Fernandez, transportation manager.
Fernandez has seen the decorated boxes in places like San José, South Lake Tahoe and San Francisco.
Gilroy, the city in Santa Clara County known for its garlic festival, started a traffic light box project after studying other cities in 2011.
For years, Gilroy Community Service Officer Rachel Munoz said the city removed graffiti from traffic boxes that tourists often passed while coming in town.
"If you are coming into the city of Gilroy, you pass a box and see how blemished it is, and it makes the area look blighted," Munoz said. "Do we really want people traveling into Gilroy to see this?"
When she saw traffic boxes that had been painted in Santa Cruz, she asked the artist, Bruce Harmon, to come to Gilroy and paint four boxes. Since the artwork was added, the boxes have been damaged by minimal vandalism and graffiti.
"Taggers tend to respect art, as opposed to the blank slate that was once there," Munoz said.
The city received such positive feedback that they decided to ask local artists in the community to sponsor boxes and find local residents to paint them. Businesses like Gilroy Veterinarian Hospital and organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars paid for artists to paint nine more boxes.
"What it does for the community is it is not a crime magnet anymore," Munoz said. "It's beautification. It's soothing, eye-pleasing and happy. When people go by, they smile, and it brings art into the community."
Metcalf is hoping people will have similar positive reactions in Lodi, and that artists will want to participate. She would like to see a school art class submit a design, or a group of artists get together to create something that is representative of the corner where they box sits.
For example, one box is in front of General Mills.
"It's a great opportunity for the artist," she said. "It's a permanent installment."
Applications, including drawings of the mural on four sides of the box, must be submitted by March 26. Winning designs will be selected at the beginning of April, and the painting should be done by the end of May.
Metcalf hopes the project takes off, and there will soon be artistic murals on traffic boxes all over town.
"If artists don't get selected in the first phase, they can get in during the second phase," she said.
For more information on how to submit an application, visit www.lodi.gov and download the "Traffic Control Box Art Call," or call Deanie Bridewell at 209-333-6800, ext. 2458.
Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at firstname.lastname@example.org.