Local

Traffic Boxes Become City Art

Four colorful traffic signal boxes are the first in an ongoing municipal project

By Skye Lucas
Artwork by artist Megan Crawford adorns a traffic light control box at Main and 6th Street East in Kalispell on Nov. 3, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

KALICO Art Center recently revealed phase one of its public art initiative to beautify traffic signal boxes in downtown Kalispell. It’s part of an ongoing project aimed at visually complementing the city by inserting works of art into the community on surfaces that are often a target of unwanted tagging or graffiti. 

Four local artists, Sophia George, Michell Wang, Megan Crawford and Heidi Marie Faessel, were selected following an open call this past summer. Kalispell-based vinyl installation and graphic design firm Wrap Hive converted the artists’ designs into vinyl wraps and installed the selected works last week. 

Jessy Hanson of KALICO Art Center says art is less likely to be tagged than bare space. The designs also add an element of joy to the streetscape, she said, bridging the gap between art and audience and facilitating community engagement. 

The decorative traffic signal boxes cater toward an on-the-go audience. And for Hanson, the ultimate goal is to create an inclusive environment that encourages curiosity among Kalispell’s citizens and passersby.

Artwork by artist Heidi Marie Faessel adorns a traffic light control box at 1st Ave East and 4th Street East in Kalispell on Nov. 3, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon
Artwork by artist Sophia George adorns a traffic light control box at 1st Ave West and 4th Street West in Kalispell on Nov. 3, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Artists were encouraged to consider the relationship of the imagery to its onlookers, such as pedestrians, commuters and neighborhood citizens. Each box presents a unique motif and each of them are located on or near Main Street in downtown. 

Born and raised Flathead artist Sophia George says her design, “Playful Pastel,” was inspired by an excerpt from Elena Ferrante’s novel Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay: “When you don’t know what you’ve made it means you’ve made something good.” 

“This little pastel felt like that,” George said. “I didn’t know what I had made but I loved it. Is it a surface design? A piece on its own? Whatever it is, I know the best things come from play, and I know the designs will add some spunk to Kalispell Main.”

Artwork by artist Michell Wang adorns a traffic light control box at Main and 4th Street East in Kalispell on Nov. 3, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Multimedia artist Marie Faessel describes her traffic signal box design, “Untitled,” as a digital collage of layered ink drawings, cut paper flowers, pressed leaves, watercolor flowers and photography that celebrates the flora and fauna of the Flathead Valley. 

Michell Wang’s “The Call of the Mountain” captures the beauty of Flathead’s mountainous landscape amid a sunset. “Wild Goose Island” by Megan Crawford depicts the iconic glacier viewpoint located at the heart of Saint Mary Lake.

The ongoing project will install a total of 12 boxes and welcomes all ages and abilities to submit their work. Kalico will reopen submissions after the New Year and a selection committee with representatives from KALICO, the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, and Arts and Culture Council of Kalispell will select another group of valley-based artists.

“Kalispell tends to be overlooked a bit, but we are a hub in the valley now and our goal is to enhance that experience,” Hanson said. “This project adds beauty to our community.”

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