The City of Flagstaff is looking for artists for a mini-mural project

Signal cabinets are designed to sit at intersections, housing the electrical equipment that keeps traffic lights flashing red, yellow and green. But the City of Flagstaff discovered in 2020 that these little industrial boxes can do more, be more.

In 2020, two of these boxes became public art. In 2023, more will transform from industrial pillars to mini-murals across the city.

Initially, the city issued a call to artists (particularly in Flagstaff and northern Arizona, though designers from across the country were able to apply), asking for design submissions. Each artist produced a wall drawing, in digital form. The winning designs were printed on vinyl wraps which were installed on traffic cabinets in two locations. Then three.

Now the city is asking artists to resubmit designs – to revamp five more utility electrical cabinets. The new sites are at the intersections of North West Street and East Dortha Avenue, South Foxglenn and East Butler Avenue, South Beulah Boulevard and South Woodlands Village Boulevard, South Beulah Boulevard and Forest Meadows Street, and South Beulah Boulevard and Lumberjack/McConnell Drive.

People also read…

Jana Weldon of the City of Flagstaff will convene a panel of community members, business owners, artists and educators to sift through entries and choose an artwork that will fit naturally into a Flagstaff neighborhood. given.

“There is magic in Flagstaff. It is very important to us that people who live in the region, who are connected to it and who have a strong interest in it, participate in the choice of art. That’s how we make sure it fits into the local atmosphere, fits into the community, doing these selection boards of people who have very strong interests in their own neighborhoods,” Weldon said. .

Kayley Quick, artist and educator, was part of the first judging panel. At the time, they met on Zoom.

“A vinyl wrap project was going to be a cool aesthetic for Flagstaff. I could see that picking up and being a nice improvement overall, making it less industrial,” Quick said. that it was before COVID. So that sounded really exciting, and I had a few friends who were also on the panels who encouraged me to want to participate. To be able to sit down and critique and discuss and hear people say things that I hadn’t thought of given their diverse backgrounds, that was pretty cool.

The first box was packed in November 2020, on the corner of Gemini and Cedar, near the entrance to Buffalo Park and Moonshot. It featured the work of a Phoenix-area artist – a bold, graphic depiction of the face of a sun goddess. Its expression is neutral, to reflect the presence of the sun itself. It is crowned with geometric shapes and coral, turquoise and gold sunbeams.

The second circulation cabinet mural, also installed in November, entered the intersection of Butler and San Francisco. Inspired by tile art, the piece looks more like a mosaic than a vinyl wrap. It features brilliant blues and golds – a design dominated by sunflowers. “Protecting and improving the quality of life for all. Flagstaff, AZ,” it read.

“This project did everything that public art is supposed to do. Bring public art to everyone, it’s accessible,” Weldon said. Wrapping sign boxes in art was her first project as program manager for the beautification, arts and science program. “It’s not in a museum. A museum can seem intimidating, yet art and beauty belong to everyone. This for me is a canvas. It is an outdoor canvas.

Lightning strikes twice

When it comes to the successes and challenges the project has faced, Weldon will be the first to tell you that lightning strikes twice.

When the first vinyl wraps were installed, city planners would never have expected luminous public art to be struck by lightning once, let alone twice.

In the summer of 2021, the Sun Goddess and the Sunflower Boxes were struck by lightning.

“Vinyl does nothing to attract, and in fact, vinyl should deter lightning. We don’t really know what the gods and goddesses of the sky meant by that. Maybe they liked them too much,” Weldon said.

In September of that year, new vinyl wrappers were printed and the pieces restored – one of the reasons the city chose this medium, instead of having artists paint directly on the boxes.

“If someone painted it, we don’t have to worry about painting it. I think looking at the painted ones versus the vinyl ones, you’re going for a more graphic design when you’re not painting. You don’t quite have the swish ability of a brush. I just think the support is a lot more durable, a lot more durable, a lot more reliable,” Weldon said.

Vinyl is designed to be both durable and replaceable.

“They’re holding up so well,” Weldon said. “We might redesign one day. We thought about every 5 years for each site, then we would go back and make it a changing gallery. We could also continue to reprint the same design.

Another advantage is the relatively low cost of installation. The city pays artists for their submissions, a benefit quickly listed in the project description.

The total cost per cabinet, according to Weldon, is $3,500 at most.

Weldon said: “Some sites have three cabinets, some have two cabinets and some have only one cabinet. The stamp of the artist therefore varies. Right now…I think we’re paying $2,200 for the artist’s fee, and then about another $1,000 for the vinyl film. Again, this varies, depending on the complexity of the cabinets. A single cabinet costs around $1,500 to $1,800, so I say they range between $2,400 and $3,500 per site.

Relocating the Sun Goddess and Sunflowers to their respective corners ended up costing a lot less than the functional repair of the wardrobe. The art, if not the original vinyl, weathered the electric storm.

The community’s response to the coins even led the city to install two more coins. This time, a winning design was submitted by one of the original selection panelists.

The art teacher and the cougar

Quick’s vinyl mural is on the corner of the Mall and the Market, behind the Safeway to the east. A mountain lion gazes out from a stand of aspen trees at passing traffic, pink and yellow wildflowers climbing up his chest. She almost sports a smile, as if she can smell the meaty smells of the nearby Purina factory and plotting mischief to score a snack.

The lion is inspired by the vacation Quick took with her husband. The two stayed at an Airbnb, but were warned by their host that there was a big cat on the prowl. A big cat, who had once been a threat to a teacher – like Quick.

“The owners of the Airbnb told me a story about a mountain lion chasing a teacher in their accommodation on their property. I was like, ‘A mountain lion chase a teacher?’ so of course I was terrified while we were there,” Quick said.

After the initial scare wore off, Quick was inspired to draw a cougar, a lion that would eventually be seen by hundreds of people.

Quick drew the lion digitally and manipulated a vector file to get the right dimensions and resolution for vinyl wrap. As a graphic design teacher at Flag High, who “also moonlights as an artist and painter,” this project was at the intersection of his personal skills and talents.

While the graphic design element can simplify the project for some creators, it’s a barrier to entry for others.

“Anyone who is a good artist and anyone who is not in the graphic design business, connect with an illustrator from someone who is in the graphic design business. Because translating physical art to panel, getting the right resolution can be a bit tricky,” Quick said.

The city has already received 30 applications, but the pool of applicants can still grow – and Quick encourages artists to apply.

“For the city and for passers-by, it makes the world a little more playful. Especially if you take a commute every day and see the same thing. It’s a bit of creativity injected into those moments,” Weldon said. “I would absolutely encourage more local artists to get into this process and get more diversity in the applicants.”

Being part of the panel inspired Quick to submit his piece in the first place. This is also the recommendation Weldon gives to artists whose designs have not been selected, as it provides greater insight into the process.

“The good news is that we will go next year and the year after for sure. Those are already in the budget, and we will continue as long as we can find cabinets. We will continue,” said Weldon.

Beautification in action

The traffic cabinet project is just one of the avenues the city is taking to make the streets more colorful. They also encourage artists to imagine their own public art and apply for Beautification in Action grants.

Artists are encouraged to go it alone and independently seek out utility boxes and traffic cabinets they would like to work on transforming. Currently, traffic cabinets along Route 66 are prohibited – they are controlled by ADOT rather than the city.

Once a creator has identified their canvas, created a design, and obtained permission from the owner and utility company, they are eligible for Beautification in Action funding.

Beautification in action grants are less competitive than traffic cabinet submissions, and they always come with a payment to the artists.

“You come up with a design, that’s up to $4,500 for an in-action beautification grant, which is enough to complete a project like this,” Weldon said.

Weldon said the deadlines to apply for Beautification in Action funding are March 15 and September 15, 2023.

Submissions for circulation cabinet designs are accepted until February 1 at

Sierra Ferguson can be reached at [email protected].

Comments are closed.