Pittsfield Paintbox Project aims to turn drab utility boxes into art

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Photo Gallery | Artscape announces Pittsfield Paintbox Program

Video | Alex Reczkowski explains the Pittsfield Paintbox Project for downtown.

PITTSFIELD — From the city that gave us "Sheeptacular" and "Art of the Game" comes "Pittsfield Paintbox Project 2016."

The latest public display of creativity calls for artists to transform eight large, city-owned utility boxes into three-dimensional paintings that will brighten the downtown streetscape from the Berkshire Museum to Persip Park, according to city officials.

"We are re-igniting the fire for [public art]," said Alex Reczkowski, chairman of the Artscape Committee.

Reczkowski, other committee members and Mayor Linda Tyer were on hand Tuesday morning at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts to offer an invitation to amateur and professionals alike a chance to beautify the city's Upstreet Cultural District.

Deadline for design submissions is April 15. Winners will be announced in May and completed paintboxes will be unveiled during the July 21 Third Thursday event.

"I am exceedingly grateful to artists who bring their talents to Pittsfield," Tyer said. "We are a city that celebrates and recognizes spaces for art."

Pittsfield Artscape is a volunteer-led committee that sponsors, plans and oversees the annual juried exhibition of public art in the city to enhance the downtown and promoting works of art.

More than a decade ago, in 2004, an effort to landscape the city with local and regional works of art came to life with "Sheeptacular." Some 70 artist-decorated, oversized, fiberglass Merino sheep graced public areas and businesses.

Two years later, the city followed up with baseball sculptures of bats, gloves and balls in "Art of the Game." The Paul Bunyon-size bat from the exhibit is now permanently affixed outside Wahconah Park.

In recent years, "Call Me Meville" in 2012 paid homage to Herman Melville who penned "Moby-Dick" while living in Pittsfield. Other, smaller-scale public art projects has included last year's "Nature & the City," small signs depicting local and regional plants and wildlife.

As to what will adorn the utility boxes is being left to the artists' imagination, according to Pittsfield's Cultural Development Director Jen Glockner.

"We talked about a theme, but there is no theme — anything goes," she said.

Berkshire Money Management is the lead sponsor, collaborating with the Artscape Committee to offer artists a $250 stipend and $150 toward art supplies per utility box.

"We are always pleased to make sponsorship investments in art and cultural initiatives that will celebrate local artists and help beautify downtown Pittsfield," company CEO Allen Harris said in a prepared statement.

While new to Pittsfield, paintbox art has been an urban fixtures for years in Boston, Newton and other cities across the country.

Reczkowski said a key goal of the project is to discourage tagging and other vandalism of utility boxes, which include a couple among the eight would-be metal canvases located at: Berkshire Museum, Crowne Plaza (South Street), two at Park Square, 7 North St., Depot and North streets, Palace Park and Persip park, both on North Street.

The utility box on the east side of Park Square will be set aside for a student artist.

"[Because] it's near Pittsfield High School and a real welcoming part of the downtown corridor," Reczkowski said.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.

Paintbox project ...

Pittsfield Artscape and the city are seeking artists of for the inaugural Pittsfield Paintbox Project.

April 15: Deadline for design submissions

May: Winners announced to paint eight, city-owned downtown utility boxes.

July 9 & 16: Painting days

July 21: Completed paintboxes unveiled at Third Thursday.

To apply: Pittsfield Office of Community Development in City Hall or at cityofpittsfield.org/city_hall/arts_and_culture/artscape/

On the Web: For examples of paintbox creations in Boston, go to http://www.publicartboston.com/content/paintbox


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