MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Downtown Mobile is finding new ways to add more color to the city by allowing local artists to use utility boxes downtown as their canvases.
What used to be plain traffic control light boxes are now being transformed into bright-colored boxes covered in designs, thanks to local artists in Mobile.
This project started under Downtown Mobile Alliance’s MOBilize grant fund. The grant was created a year ago to sponsor projects to fill downtown’s streets and sidewalks with creative local art.
Each year, the Mobile Arts Council gets funding for public art throughout the community. When the Downtown Mobile Alliance reached out to them with the idea to paint utility boxes, they were excited to utilize local artists.
“We thought well that’s a great canvas for an interesting art project and so the first one we did proved to be so popular that we decided we would try to do 22 of them in 2022,” said Carol Hunter, the communications director for the Downtown Mobile Alliance.
“We have three finished and a long way to go but in working with the Mobile Arts Council, they now administer that program for us. We hope to get all of them done by the end of the year.”
Each artist submits an online form through the Mobile Arts Council website with samples of their work and a brief design proposal for the utility box. If selected, the artist can choose to either paint the box or have it wrapped in vinyl.
Downtown Mobile Alliance’s MOBilize grant provides each artist that is selected with a $750 budget for materials and supplies for their box.
“There’s so much talent here in our city and we’ve had a lot of different artists who are skilled in a variety of different mediums come forward and apply for this project, said Lucy Gafford, Executive Director for the Mobile Arts Council. “Right now, we have 10 in the works that we’re planning to get completed in this next phase and from photography to digital art to painting and other mixed mediums.”
“You’re going to see a wide range of artwork put on these boxes throughout downtown so it’s going to be really exciting to see,” said Gafford.
Harlan Schwall was the first artist to complete one of the utility boxes and Amanda Youngblood was the second. Schwall has created several art pieces across Mobile and opened her own art studio, Central Arts Collective, three years ago.
Schwall said she takes her art and does what she can for the community. Her design for the box was inspired by the layers of palmettos she became fascinated with when she visited the upper river delta.
Youngblood said the design for her box was inspired by neurographic art and that she wanted to incorporate different colors and keep it abstract.
“This is a way to bring art to the community and show that art can be accessible,” said Youngblood. “You can find it in the most random places.”
Both the Downtown Mobile Alliance and Mobile Arts Council said they’re still looking for more artists to apply to reach their goal of having 22 traffic control light boxes at least started by the end of 2022.
For more information on how to apply, visit Mobile Arts Council’s website.