In early Augusts, visitors to and residents of Franklin Avenue in Hartford may have seen people leaving their marks on utliity boxes with the blessing of the city.
The "Outside the Box" program, organized by the city's Marketing, Events, & Cultural Affairs Office (MECA) and Livable Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative, invited Hartford-area artists to submit proposed designs for mini-murals. Sixteen were selected, and each winning artist was given a utility box on Franklin Avenue to paint, to create a trail of public art in one of the city's most bustling neighborhoods.
Kristina Newman-Scott, director of MECA, said she saw a similar program when she was living and working in Boston, and brought the idea to Hartford as a small piece of the ongoing effort to remedy blight in the city.
"Some neighborhoods, like Franklin and Albany and Park Street, are graffitied, or the boxes have layers and layers of posters on them," she said. "This is a great way for the neighborhood to have works of art by artists who care about the neighborhood. ... to integrate public art into the neighborhood and teach people the value of public art."
She said there always is a chance the paintings themselves will be graffitied and postered over, but she hopes not. "I'm hoping after people see these murals, they feel some amount of pride in them and start policing them, telling people, don't put that graffiti there, that's a nice painting," she said.
An easy-to-clean clear protective coating will be applied over each painting.
If the public reaction to the murals is good, Newman-Scott said she hopes Albany Avenue will be next.
When submitting artwork propsals, artists were instructed not to use dark colors, to prevent boxes from overheating in the sun. Artists also were told "designs may be representational or abstract [no profanity or nudity] but must respond to the urban context and be appropriate given the location and audience."
Artists were paid $500 each.
The artists, and their intersections, were: Jeanne Manzelli, Chester Street; Alberto Colon, Elliot Street; Balam Soto, Plymouth Street; Dyshann Anderson, Benton Street; Catherine Owens, Brown Street; Jill Friedman, Barker Street; Tyrone Motley, Preston Street; Dooleyo Jackson, South Street; Claire Cronkhite, Shultas Street; Christina Blakemore, Adelaide Street; Olivia Nguyen, Maple Avenue; Natacha Poggio, South Street; Joe Sam, Brown Street; Victor Ortiz, Bodwell Street; Patrick Connolly, Hanmer Street; and Christian Ayala, Cromwell Street.