Last fall, the City of Chandler, Arizona, posted a call for artists to design artwork for the city’s traffic control boxes. I knew I wanted to participate for a few reasons: I love turning every day, mundane objects into art; it was a chance to collaborate with two high school art students on their capstone project; and it also opened another opportunity to contribute to the world of public art, which is becoming increasingly recognized for its innumerable contributions to our communities. The Chandler Arts Commission has been supporting public art programs since 1983. Projects are funded through the City of Chandler’s Percent for Art Ordinance, whereby one percent of limited capital improvement projects is allocated for acquisition, commission and installation of public art. The City’s collection of public art has positioned Chandler as a municipality with a vision for identifying opportunities for public art, even on the dullest of street corners.

Public art supplements cultural value and a community’s character, shaping how we remember a place and creating a sense of identity. It is reflective of its locality and time, sparking viewers’ imaginations and helping to produce memories. Public art also positions artists as valuable contributors to planning public places and amenities. Artists collaborate with designers, engineers, elected officials and community stakeholders, bringing creativity to projects that would not have otherwise been possible or available. Public art can also economically contribute to a community, drawing people to visit, remember and return. It can transform civic spaces, public transportation stations, healthcare facilities, playgrounds and street corners, reinforcing personal expression and human imagination.

Although just a traffic box, it is a required utility system – some may say they are an “eye sore” on our street corners – but when transformed into art, can stimulate conversations, connections and imaginations while beautifying and enriching our communities. Thank you to the City of Chandler, the Chandler Arts Commission, and to all communities across the world that celebrate their place through public art.