Thinking Outside the Box

Madison artists to put their touch on the city’s electrical switch boxes

Madison Area Arts Alliance to sponsor the art project

(July 2017) – For its first project, the newly formed Public Arts-Spaces team of the Madison Area Arts Alliance wanted to find a fun way to celebrate downtown Madison, Ind.’s designation as an official Indiana Cultural District. The team wanted a project that would showcase local artists, while simultaneously making the statement that this is a creative community that values and embraces art.
One idea that generated a lot of excitement was to find some way to incorporate local art into the switchboxes that control traffic lights. Because the boxes belong to the Indiana Department of Transportation, however, it was important to find a way of doing this that would not damage the boxes or interfere with their operation. While visiting a relative in Bozeman, Mont., Alliance board president and member of the Public Arts-Spaces team Ryan Mahoney saw that a group there had printed art on state-of-the-art vinyl and then wrapped it around traffic switch boxes, providing a clever solution to their problem.
Now, thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, and the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, Madison will soon be home to seven switch boxes wrapped in local art. The grant is part of the Quick Impact Placebased Grant Program, a program designed to fund “placemaking” projects that enhance and transform communities by sparking creativity and conversation.
More than 100 proposals were submitted to this program, and the Switch Box project is one of only 23 projects statewide to win funding.
Mahoney, whose day job is working as the Vice President of Farmers Bank of Milton, is originally from Madison and said he really wants to see the community grow and prosper. “Other communities have been really successful in making arts a central focus of their economic development. Our town is beautiful, and we should showcase that and encourage growth through celebrating the arts and creative people. This is the first of many public arts projects. I think people will enjoy it.”
The boxes to be wrapped are all located at key downtown intersections along Main Street, between Walnut and Cragmont. Kim Nyberg, the Alliance’s executive director, said she hopes that after the initial seven switch boxes are unveiled, the project can expand to the hilltop and beyond.
“The Arts Alliance doesn’t just stop at downtown,” she said. Ideally, the project would further the sense of community and connectivity between downtown and the hilltop. She says the timeline for the project is fluid, but the art for the first boxes would likely to have been chosen by the end of July.
Artists of all ages who live within 75 miles of Madison are encouraged to apply to have their work featured on the boxes. Artwork must have been produced within the past three years, and applicants may submit up to three images for consideration. Submissions can be from illustrations, paintings, computer designed images, geometrics, mosaics or photographs.
Artwork must be positive, original and creative. Artists can submit a CD or thumb drive with a JPEG or TIF file of 300 dpi or higher resolution, along with complete contact information, artist statement, an 8x10 color print of proposed artwork, and a $25 application fee. One technical requirement is that the artwork must not be more than 50 percent black or dark colors or this may overheat the switch box. Applications can be mailed or delivered to Madison Area Arts Alliance, 416 W. St., Suite B, Madison, IN 47250, by 4:30 p.m. Friday, July 28. Questions can be directed to (812) 801-9863 or via email to Nyberg at: artsherenow@gmail.com.
While artists will not be paid for their work, the exposure is expected to draw a lot of attention to each artist. The Arts Alliance is planning celebrations around each box when they are completed. In addition, an official art guide and map will accompany the finished project.
The Arts Alliance was founded by artists and creative community members in 2013 to nurture arts and culture, and support the work of artists in the area. The Board of Directors is made up of artists and non-artists who hope to make art part of the economic development of the region by bridging art and business. The Arts Alliance is currently housed in the Community Foundation of Madison & Jefferson County, but the board is looking for a larger permanent space for workshops and events.
This is only the first project of the Public Arts-Spaces team, and it has several other ideas. Their goal in this and other projects is to add contemporary elements to the area that complement the historic district, while celebrating Madison’s rich concentration of arts and culture.

“It’s the combination of old and new that makes this district unique,” said Nyberg. The Public Arts-Spaces team is working to continue introducing new creative projects to the community that will both highlight and enhance the best features of the community.

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