The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 21, 2013

Public art to adorn signal boxes

CityArt hopes to beautify 10 cabinets this fall

By Dan Linehan
The Mankato Free Press

---- — MANKATO — If this new public art effort is successful, downtown Mankato will have 10 more works of public art this fall — and 10 fewer gray utility boxes.

CityArt Mankato is seeking artists for its Traffic Signal Cabinet Mural Project, which will decorate the boxes with paintings and vinyl wraps.

The aim is to beautify the downtown area and get people walking around it, said Noelle Lawton, CityArt coordinator. It’s based on several other similar efforts around the country, especially one in Missoula, Mont.

They’re looking for 10 artists who will, for $1,000 apiece, either paint the signal boxes or digitally design an image to be transferred to a wrap and professionally installed. One of those boxes has been set aside to be designed by an artist 18 years old or younger.

Lawton said some cities have the boxes painted to deter vandalism, but she doesn’t see that as a problem here.

“I don’t think we have a graffiti problem per se, but it’s a way to start beautifying the city center.”

Of course, these traffic control cabinets will still be working, so the works of art won’t interfere with access to the boxes and won’t be affected by the intense heat they generate.

“I don’t know that people think of traffic boxes as eyesores,” Lawton said. “They blend in. It’s just a unique canvas.”

If all goes well, the project could decorate more boxes, possibly next summer. There are about 40 of the boxes in the downtown area.

Five organizations — the city of Mankato, Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council, Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation, Mankato Area Foundation and the City Center Partnership — have made contributions, though none is larger than $2,5000.

Artists looking to apply can find a request for proposals at The deadline for submissions is Aug. 1, and the artwork will be completed in September.