Painting the town: Local artists add color to Dover’s traffic boxes

An Wong and Lily Turner with Dover Central Middle School art class paint a traffic signal box on State and Division Streets on Tuesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Several local artists, with plans, paints and brushes at the ready, got started on leaving a lasting imprint on downtown Dover — one stroke at a time.

NCALL’s Restoring Central Dover group and the Downtown Dover Partnership got their city-wide art initiative underway on Tuesday afternoon as students from Dover High School and Central Middle painted their artwork on traffic signal boxes.

By the time the paint dries on the Community Traffic Box Art Project there will be 18 traffic signal boxes downtown that will feature local artists’ handy work, as well as murals.

The Delaware Department of Transportation owns all 18 traffic signals and boxes throughout downtown Dover.

Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Mark Luszcz, chief traffic engineer for DelDOT, tipped his hat to the artists and said they brought a positive energy to what had been just plain silver aluminum boxes.

“I think they look great,” Mr. Luszcz said. “I think they’re impressive and as a state agency a lot of what we do is very utilitarian, we’re doing things for practicality.

“We have a traffic signal to run here. I don’t have time or staff to put artwork on it, but it looks beautiful and it makes our plain old aluminum box look much nicer.”

Will Grimes, the neighborhood revitalization coordinator for NCALL, said the aim of the art project is to enhance community pride, support the creation of neighborhood identity through art and add some vibrancy to the Central Dover area.

He was excited to see the artwork finally get underway on Tuesday.

Members of the Dover High School Art Club painted a traffic box at the corner of Loockerman Street and South Governors Avenue while students from Central Middle added their combined vision to a traffic box at State and Division Streets.

“It’s outstanding. It’s just amazing to really see this come to fruition,” Mr. Grimes said. “These young students came up with these designs are they are just beautiful. It really captures the beauty of Dover and put it to art and that’s exactly what they’re doing.
“Just to see the excitement of the artists, I’m overjoyed with it and it has far exceeded our expectations.”

Karen Zheng, an eighth-grader at Central Middle, was among eight students who donned reflective vests for protection and painted a traffic box.

“It’s special,” she said. “Now we’ll get a chance to look back into our past and see ‘Oh we did something here.’”

DelDOT granted the artists permission to add some color to their traffic boxes. The art had to be approved and cannot be political in nature or advertising.

“We give (the artists) some minor stipulations about how to be careful around traffic, but we didn’t want anything to do with the actual artwork, we wanted to allow that to stay local,” Mr. Luszcz said. “Between the city and the artists, they figure out what artwork is allowed. As long as it’s just nice artwork, we’re good with it.”

Charon Dagley, an art teacher at Central Middle, was grateful to all the agencies that combined to bring the project to life.

“I think it’s amazing,” Ms. Dagley said. “I think it’s awesome that kids will be able to see their work coming into school or leaving out of school. This is a great chance for them to leave their talent somewhere here to be admired by the community.”

She added that their project was one big collaboration.

Dover Central Middle School art class students paint a traffic signal box on State and Division Streets in Dover on Tuesday.

“I had (the students) draw something about Central Middle School and their community and we kind of combined it,” said Ms. Dagley. “So far it’s coming together as I envisioned and I think they’re really enjoying it.”

Meanwhile, just a couple of blocks away, the Dover High School Art Club was working on its own traffic box.

They were painting things such as the Capital City Farmers Market, the Downtown Dover Partnership, along with several other features.

“I think it’s an awesome opportunity for students to put their print on Dover and to be able to be in the community and know that they contributed in an amazing way,” said MaryJane Long, an art teacher at Dover High.

“Obviously, lots of people are going to be driving up and down and looking at what they’ve created.”

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen and City Planner Dave Hugg took a morning stroll to check out the city’s latest art additions.

“I think this is the example all of us old people wanted to set and they’re just following through on it,” the mayor said.

Joe Myer, executive director of NCALL, believes the new artwork will help to create a positive vibe around Dover.

“It is proven that community development and the arts go hand in hand, and revitalization is more successful when they fully connect,” Mr. Myer said. “That is what we are pursuing in Dover.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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