Bristol Reverses Position on Public Art Project | Connecticut Public Radio

Bristol Reverses Position on Public Art Project

Sep 23, 2016

Bristol's Operation Traffic Box art project is back in business. 

Earlier this week, the city's board of police commissioners voted four to three to halt the public art project, where volunteer artists from Bristol transform large traffic boxes into works of art.

But in a noon meeting on Friday, the commission reversed its decision on the condition that a member of the Bristol Art Squad serve as a liaison between the artists and the commission during the planning and revision process.

The Bristol Art Squad is a group of volunteer artists who are dedicated to creating public art projects, as part of the city-wide Bristol All Heart marketing campaign. There are currently nine completed traffic boxes, with three in progress.

Friday's decision ensured the final 10 traffic boxes will be completed sometime next year.

A major part of the Bristol All Heart campaign is to bring together local artists to help brighten up blighted parts the city.

After the success of their first project, where artists transformed empty storefronts into temporary art installations, the Bristol Art Squad got approval by the city council to transform city traffic boxes into works of art.

The project has been ongoing for over year, with volunteer artists from the Art Squad submitting their plans to the city's Board of Police Commissioners for approval.

Photographer Lindsay Vigue, who is a member of the Bristol Art Squad, said she noticed the board had been dragging their heels on approving pending traffic box plans, and with winter coming she had hoped to meet with the board to encourage them to approve the plans.

"We have an all volunteer group of artists who have submitted designs based on the themes for each one of the traffic boxes, we raised our own funds," she said. "And we just need the approval from the police commission, and what was going on was they were asking us to continuously make revisions, and asking the artists to make new sketches."

She was told by the commission to come to last Wednesday's meeting.

What she didn't know was the Board of Police Commissioners, which includes Bristol Mayor Ken Cockayne, was meeting to decide whether to stop the project altogether.

With a four-three vote, they did just that.

"It took us completely by surprise," said Vigue. "Some of the commissioners said they had gotten complaints from residents, and one commissioner said that every person he talked to said they didn't like the project."

The police commission decided to paint the remaining traffic boxes gray. The commission agreed that gray blended in better with the city than the traffic boxes that had been transformed by the Bristol Art Squad.

The nine traffic boxes that have already been finished, and three more that are in progress will not be covered over with gray paint.