Decorate Your Hometown: PaintBox Boston
In recent years street art has gained in popularity and recognition throughout the world. The famous political campaigns of Shepard Fairey and prolific installations of Banksy are major examples of this public medium’s wide influence.
The greatest challenge preventing street art from reaching its potential as an avenue for all artists to pursue that keeps it from having any sort of standards of quality or content, is its misconceived synonymy with graffiti, which is illegal. The Boston Art Commission has a program named PaintBox, which hopes to overcome this limitation.
The completely legal and accessible program has brought street art to Boston in a tasteful manner. Aspiring artists have the opportunity to apply to paint electrical boxes that stand on streets throughout the city. This allows people to create original works of art on a public forum that will be visible for thousands of people to see on a daily basis. It is also beneficial to our city, taking bland grey boxes that have only one classic function and giving them a romantic and visual purpose.
Artists have the opportunity to submit up to three designs to the Boston Art Commission to be considered for approval.
To deter some of the vulgarity found in graffiti and insure that decorated boxes are pleasing and not offensive to pedestrians, there are some guidelines for designs. Originality is the first rule. Designs must avoid dark palettes to avoid boxes overheating. They must also be appropriate to the location and expected audience of the specific box. Finally, and most strangely, the design must incorporate the words, “City of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino,” in some fashion.
It is easy to acquire inspiration and see examples by roaming the streets of Boston, as the PaintBox program is not new, and there are decorated boxes throughout the city.
With its variety of art schools, museums and cultures, there is a deep artistic tradition in Boston. For those whose work seems to fall through the cracks of this particular and exclusive artistic scene, PaintBox is a great opportunity to get recognized and contribute. The opening line of the project overview for the PaintBox application is, “The PaintBox program, organized by the Boston Art Commission, is geared towards the recognition and celebration of local artists.”
The Boston Art Commission is comprised of five commissioners from various artistic societies in Boston, including the Museum of Fine Arts and Boston Society of architects, to work on providing the city with and making its citizens aware of any and all public art. With programs like PaintBox and more applications for other public art propositions, including both permanent and temporary art, the Boston Art Commission is a great tool for local artists.
Mayor Menino and the city of Boston demonstrate their recognition of the importance of sharing and creating art through the Boston Art Commission. It is an act that has been and will continue to be appreciated and used by a wide variety of artists adding their unique and specific perspective. The culmination of all the views and ideas of each and every citizen of any city is what gives that city a face. Every new artist that can add any amount of public art provides another facet to the dynamic image of Boston.
The variety of art that has already been contributed is broad. Different styles and concepts decorate electrical boxes in nearly all of Boston’s neighborhoods. Artist James Mustin has provided a silhouette of the Boston skyline with a warm colored sky hovering above on a box at Longwood Medical Center, near Mission Hill. Howie Green painted a box tie-dye with an image of a Technicolor guitar on the side, and the words “Boston Rocks” on the top on the corner of Washington Street and West Street, downtown. Heidi Schork painted a portrait of Edgar Allen Poe with the poet’s name and one of his poems accompanying it in the Theater District on the corner of Park Plaza and Boylston Street.
These pieces, which are visually unalike from one another but equal in quality and attractiveness, are a small example of the barrage of differently decorated boxes. A long thread of photographs of different boxes, with a listing of the artist, neighborhood, location, and date the piece was finished can be viewed in the PaintBox section of publicartboston.com.
Awareness of public art in Boston and of the PaintBox program will be perpetually beneficial to this city’s character. Artists and non-artists should open their eyes to the public art scene. If you have been to every art museum in the city, find a warm day and walk around to check out these boxes. Along the way you’re bound to experience so much more–from murals like the ones at Dudley Square to graffiti in the tunnel in Cambridge to the Banksy tag in Chinatown. Artists can also observe all of these images and become inspired or come to a realization that there is something missing, something only that individuals can offer.
Paint cracks and fades. People superimpose their graffiti over other people’s. A city is a living thing, and like a human, its image invariably changes over time. There are always more things to decorate, and there is always a place where an individual can make his or her mark. If the influence you want to offer is visual, then the PaintBox program or any other permanent or temporary piece of public art you feel the need to provide is an avenue towards exposure that should warrant serious consideration.
All of the information on PaintBox and the Boston Art Commission can be found on their website, Publicartboston.com. Applications are rolling and can also be accessed through the website.