Several Broomfield groups are hoping to beautify city corners by covering existing traffic boxes with original art.
In June, the Broomfield Public Art Committee installed a vinyl wrap on the traffic cabinet — a box that houses the signal controller — at 136th Avenue and Main Street. The committee tried to implement it last year, but the weather delayed those plans, Cultural Affairs Operations Coordinator Cheryl German said.
Marie Wilkie, executive director of BackStory Theatre and chair of the Broomfield Public Art Committee, said the current vinyl wrap, which is decorated with colorful flowers and insects, was a trial run to test materials.
The vinyl wraps, which cost about $1,800, are popular right now, German said, and are an inexpensive way to add color and art around the city without damaging anything. The material will be easy to take off in a few years when it starts to deteriorate and can then be refreshed with a new design.
“It’s going to be a nice way to have colorful art you can work with that’s not paint,” German said.
Broomfield does not own the electrical boxes around the city and county, she said, but it does own the traffic cabinets. She hopes the wrap lasts about three years, but that it will depend on weather conditions.
Broomfield applied for and was granted an Arts, Culture, and Science grant that goes through the cultural council. This year there was $17,151 available, German said, and because of COVID-19, applications for the grant dwindled and money was left over. The city only received applications for close to $11,000, leaving more than $6,000 in reserve.
German, the cultural council and the Broomfield Public Art Committee agreed to use the remaining funding to work with schools to install more vinyl wraps since the funding is meant to work with schools, libraries and other organizations that don’t get Scientific and Cultural Facilities District funding.
Broomfield has reached out to the five high schools in the city and will try to work with interested art teachers on the project. It will be designed with what makes the most sense for their class, German said, since students and teachers are under “so much stress already.”
German said a concern with applying artwork to traffic boxes is heat buildup damaging the equipment. The city’s streets department reviewed the box and components after a number of days and determined the vinyl would not cause any damage to the equipment.
“One issue with painting traffic boxes is that if the traffic box is damaged and has to be replaced, you’ve lost the art,” German said.
Greeley is doing tests with vinyl and paint on electrical boxes for Xcel Energy to see what effects artwork has on the box and components, she said. The city is attempting to develop a national model. Xcel owns Broomfield’s electrical boxes and currently will not allow art on their boxes.
At the August meeting, the committee decided to move forward with adding more wraps to traffic cabinets around the city.
Last August the PAC’s site selection subcommittee identified possible spots for eight traffic boxes largely focused in the FlatIrons Crossing area, Wilkie said. Over the year, that plan has evolved to try to connect an art corridor throughout the whole Broomfield community. It would essentially reach from the Flatirons area down to 120th Avenue, and diagonally across Main to Anthem.
“The idea is to have awareness that the community extends tip to tip,” Wilkie said.
Last year the committee revised its vision and mission. It also broke members into subcommittees: art research, site selection; maintenance and an executive subcommittee, made up of the chair and vice chair, that reviews items brought by sub committee members.
As the committee retires the “Art for Awhile” program, another project it’s working toward is a mural project on a retaining wall at Colo. 128 and U.S. 287.
“It did its job,” Wilkie said about the Art for Awhile program. “Its job was to introduce public art to the community and get them engaged and excited.”
Now it’s time to examine forms of art other than sculpture that residents can embrace, she said, which includes two-dimensional visual art.
The wraps are not only easy to maintain and inexpensive, they provide an opportunity to call on local artists to participate. Angela Schmer, Broomfield’s communications engagement specialist, designed the first wrap. For future pieces around the city, PAC is considering opening up a community contest where people can submit ideas.
At its September meeting, members will look at potential site locations and discuss how many they can afford, and want, to install.
Submissions, from individual artists or artist collaborations, for the mural project were due Thursday. When requesting applications, the committee outlined themes such as diversity, equity, inclusion, marginalized community members, mental health/suicide awareness and prevention. Artists were asked to submit samples of their work for reference, such as a website or Instagram page.
The goal for the high-traffic area is to inspire conversations “that need to be happening,” Wilkie said.
Committee members hope to fill up panels of the retaining wall with multiple artists. The executive subcommittee met Thursday to go over the initial submissions, which will then be reviewed by the rest of the committee before the September meeting. The group meets at 6 p.m. the second Wednesday of every month over Zoom. To participate, visit broomfield.org/145/Public-Art-Committee.
The committee hopes to submit mural plans to council Sept. 10.
Currently the committee is looking to fill six to eight panels of the retaining wall, which is across the street from a 7-Eleven, with art. That could fluctuate depending on the the budget and submissions, Wilkie said.
“Because of COVID we lost so much time,” she said. “We really wanted to see something happen this year so we’re hoping for some great submissions.”
The committee hopes to have the mural installation, which will be done with an acrylic-like paint on the treated wall, done in the first two weeks of October. The art will then be covered with a sealant. Wilkie said the hope is to rotate the art in five to 10 years, depending on how quickly weather deteriorates it.
Ward 3 Councilman Deven Shaff mentioned the project at the Aug. 25 city council meeting.
“Art is a vital part of our everyday life,” Shaff said Wednesday. “Art available to a community, especially in public spaces, provides opportunities for people to connect, provide the expression of a communities unique identity and sense of pride, and provides value to all of the surrounding areas.”