Art Around Columbia: Traffic Box Art


Downtown Traffic Box Art

Isabel Gompper

Downtown Columbia is like most downtown areas: covered in graffiti art and spray paint tags. Implemented by the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA), artists from all around come to Columbia to compete in the annual traffic box public art show. Assigned a traffic signal box, or TSB, these artists create and paint on the boxes. The goal of the project is to decrease the instances of graffiti on these surfaces while making them artful objects.
To compete artists must submit a design proposal to the board. They must also meet certain criteria for judging and stay inside a budget of $500 for materials. The artist receive an honorarium of $1,500. The Committee on Public Art judges the selection on the following criteria:
– Artistic merit
– Effectiveness in abating graffiti (e.g. no large blank or light-colored areas)
– Design reflects life in Columbia and the vitality of the district
– Design is appropriate for the specific site in its layout and composition, that is, it may reflect the history, happenings or architecture of the specific location
The artists have a requirement of using a designated primer and graffiti coat sealant to keep the artwork from being damaged in the future. Usually stationed at every other corner cross-hair of downtown Columbia, these boxes add a pop of color to the normally steel gray boxes. The TSB allows passerby’s to stop and enjoy the artwork and also helps prevent further vandalism on the boxes because of the community’s love for the artwork. I enjoy how these boxes have no actual set theme for the artist to follow. Artists can use their imagination to create beautiful pieces with anything they want on them as long as they stick to the idea and give a statement on how their artwork will be able to repel vandalism. So far the box art has been able to keep most of the graffiti off.