PHOTO GALLERY | Pittsfield Paintbox Program 

PITTSFIELD — Michael McKay thinks — and paints — outside the box.

He is co-creator of, the artist's collaboration with the witty window signs seen at the corner of West Housatonic and South streets that are a humorous commentary on the country's current social, economic and political climate.

Naturally, McKay was a fit for turning a nondescript utility box into street art titled "Quality Time" located at the North/Melville streets intersection.

Inspired by the Tide detergent color scheme, the three-dimensional artwork wraps around the four-sided structure covering the gun metal gray with yellow, orange and a hard to apply black color.

"The black is sign painters enamel, slow to put on because it's very thick," he said.

McKay's public display of creativity is one of 10 chosen from nine artists for this summer's "Pittsfield Paintbox Project." The Pittsfield Artscape Committee launched the inaugural artistic competition last year choosing eight artists among 39 to brighten up hardly-noticed city-owned utility boxes from the Berkshire Museum on South Street to Persip Park along North Street.

For 2017, the committee chose the unique canvases of eight more boxes on North from Columbus to Wahconah streets and two on Tyler Street.

The artists have until July 20 to complete the street art set to be officially unveiled at July's Third Thursday festival.

A formal judging panel picked the winners not knowing the names of the artists, such as Paul Dodds, selected again to participate.

"I always was a fan of street art and the beautification of the downtown," he said. "This lets people know we have an arts community here."

Pittsfield Artscape Committee Chairwoman No l Henebury says each entry included the artist's design and a statement for the reasoning behind the submission.

"We asked, 'What do you want to share with Pittsfield; what do you want to contribute,'" she said.

In addition, the artists also had to think through the process of turning a two-dimensional concept into three-dimensional reality.

"You have to think of all sides — get to know your box," said Henebury.

Pittsfield Paintbox Project also gets the public to know the artist, watching she/he in action. On Monday afternoon, Stephanie Quetti was applying the finishing touches to "Girasoli," Italian for sunflower, at the corner of Wahconah and North streets when she got a thumbs up from a passing motorist.

"That looks amazing," yelled the man.

"That happens all the time; people saying all good things about the box," Quetti noted.

Lead sponsor Berkshire Money Management is collaborating with the Artscape Committee to offer artists a $400 stipend

The Pittsfield Cultural Council, the city's Office of Cultural Development and Downtown Pittsfield Inc. are also backing the outdoor public art project.

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

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. The key goal of paintboxes is to discourage tagging and other vandalism of the utility boxes and stimulate ongoing dialogue among artists and the general public.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233