Two drab metal boxes holding the mechanisms that control traffic lights have been revived with bursts of color, the latest in the effort to place more art in public places in Lafayette.
The first two of 10 traffic boxes to get an artistic makeover are along the northbound lane of Camellia Boulevard in the River Ranch development. Each box is wrapped with vinyl, a durable medium that can last up to 20 years, that bears the design of a local artist.
“Any time we can make an ugly traffic box beautiful with local art, it’s awesome,” said Karen Daigle, marketing director for River Ranch.
The Art Box project is a collaboration among Lafayette Consolidated Government, the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission and Acadiana Center for the Arts.
Along with the recent installation of the #YLafayette sculpture in Parc Sans Souci and the beautification goals behind Project Front Yard, the traffic box project rides largely on the momentum surrounding the city’s comprehensive plan, which is meant to provide direction for the city’s growth.
“The comprehensive plan is not something that’s just gonna be on a shelf. We’re starting to implement these ideas,” said Ben Berthelot, president and CEO of the Convention and Visitors Commission.
The organization funded the first 10 boxes, two of which were unveiled Monday afternoon.
At the corner of Silverstone Road is a piece by illustrator Johnathan Wilson, a 26-year-old University of Louisiana at Lafayette visual arts graduate. He created his work with ink and watercolor before it was digitized, transferred to vinyl and wrapped around the box.
Wilson’s piece boasts vibrant colors and whimsical character illustrations of Earth’s creatures, both real and imagined, traveling together in various carriages.
“I wanted to see something everyone could enjoy, especially kids, who just stare out the window all the time,” Wilson said. “A lot of my work is inspired by travel.”
An astronaut and canine are carried by a cloud-lifted hot air balloon, while a pipe-smoking dragon towers overhead. Penguins in bowler hats stand atop a mustached octopus, who’s steering a boat ahead of a fishbowl-headed robot carrying sea creatures.
The box at the corner of Settlers Trace Boulevard showcases a design by Lafayette artist Erin Broussard depicting five human travelers — and a voodoo doll — navigating a boat through muddy waters in a swamp scene.
One person holds the map while another hoists an Acadiana flag. Another character with hair like the Statue of Liberty’s crown sits on the bow of the vessel, holding a flashlight for her traveling companions.
The AcA, which is curating the works, is accepting applications through March 20 from artists who would like to design a box. Those chosen will earn a $500 stipend for the rights to their work, which will be placed on a traffic box at a to-be-determined location within Lafayette’s city limits.
“We’re excited that (the city has) included public art in the comprehensive plan,” said Bree Sargent, education director for the AcA. “They see a need and want for that in our community.”
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825