The Springfield, Missouri News-Leader covered this story twice in October 2014. One feature is titled “The Pole Painting Project – Moon City spruces up utility poles – public art project aims to beautify Woodland Heights, curb graffiti.” The other article is titled “Moon City’s latest project: pretty up the poles:
While some neighborhoods push for underground utility lines to pretty things up, the artsy folks with the Moon City Creative District are using the utility poles in the Woodland Heights Neighborhood as canvases.
On Saturday, about 60 local artists — professional and amateur, young and old — spent hours painting unique designs and scenes on more than 35 poles. The public art project is aimed at calming traffic, curbing graffiti and beautifying the neighborhood.
“Why poles? Well, poles are everywhere,” said Phyllis Ferguson, one of the event coordinators. “They are not the most beautiful thing in our sight when we look around, so we decided to paint the poles.”
The project, Ferguson said, also helps create awareness about the Moon City Creative District located in the Woodland Heights Neighborhood, a specially zoned “live/work” overlay district that features many types of artists who operate studios or galleries from their homes.
Ferguson and fellow artists, Steve Miller and Linda Passeri, got the idea after traveling to an art district in Victoria, British Columbia, where artists have painted about 300 utility poles.
In Victoria, Ferguson said, they are seeing less graffiti on the poles because graffiti artists seem to appreciate and respect the painted poles. Also, traffic has calmed somewhat due to drivers slowing down to look at the poles.
Passeri said she hopes the painted poles will cause people to get out and enjoy their neighborhood.
“The more people see public art, the more they appreciate public art. And it just makes people happy. It improves quality of life, just to have art in our everyday,” she said. “When you get in your car and you are driving to work and you see a pole painted with some flowers — it just makes your day better.”
The project was possible thanks to a collaborative effort with the district and City Utilities, Ferguson said. The Healthy Living Alliance gave a $2,000 grant to buy paint and supplies, and Mexican Villa also contributed supplies.
Another “Paint a Pole” project will be scheduled for next spring, Ferguson said.
Want to see the poles?
Yes I did want to see the poles. Sunday morning found me waiting for the sun to rise on Commercial Street, which runs parallel to Chase Street, which the newspaper said was the site of some of the pole painting. Between sips of lukewarm coffee I photographed the assortment of sculptures at a little park at the north end of the 1902 iron footbridge that connects Woodland Heights with Commercial Street. C Street, as it is called, is a Federal Register Historic District.
The also-federally-recognized 628-foot span permits creatives who live in the Moon City Creative District to shop for vintage clothing, chug a micro brew, be inspired by art exhibitions, and possibly contribute to the down-and-outs who come to C Street for the charities and shelters, not the culture.
With the sun up, I drove down Chase Street pole watching. It “made my day better” as I was prompted to later research pole painting and other similar efforts worldwide to beautify public spaces with sanctioned and subsidized graffiti.
Decorating telephone poles is a phenomenon that resonates with our Hypercommon thesis. What is more hyper than soliciting funds and painting banal symbols on these exceedingly common and natively unsuitable for embellishment utilitarian objects? The shape, receptivity to paint, and the usual architectural environment of utility poles are hostile to these well-meaning efforts at civic improvement.
Artists through the ages have attempted to defend against criticism by evoking religious or political justification. To suggest lackluster graffiti performed by groups of middle class amateurs will thwart gang tags is exceedingly inventive we must concede. The “creative” elevation of the mundane is the very essence of hypercommonality.
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