Local artists stop traffic

Chances are, most have never looked twice at a nondescript traffic signal control box, but thanks to imaginative artists, locals are now doing double-takes at intersections.  

More than 20 Greater Lansing area artists have given these previously blank, gray “canvases” across the downtown corridor a colorful makeover. 

The project was a vision of the Design and Public Spaces Committee for Downtown Lansing Inc., formerly headed by the late Brandon Navin of the Artist’s Umbrella. 

Julie Reinhardt, DLI director of community development, and Bob Rose developed the concept and implemented the project. Rose, an advocate, artist and volunteer, said he enjoys and champions creating art in a public setting. 

“From chalk art to painting live on stage, it’s part performance art, education and just plain human socializing,” he said. “It’s good for the soul.” 

While some of the artists were recruited, Rose said others asked to help makeover the 12 traffic boxes. Each spot alongside Washington Square and Grand and Capitol avenues saw two to three artists participating, some collaborating for the first time.  

Rose, Genevieve Richardson, Susan Krans, Stephanie Vasko and Michelle Gregory worked together to create a mini-gallery of sorts with the boxes. The loose theme was “love letters to Lansing,” an effort to develop a welcoming and vibrant atmosphere in Lansing. “This project is touching everyone who visits, works, or lives downtown. That’s a lot of folks seeing works of art daily,” Rose said.  

For help on the mission, Rose said he contacted local illustrator, caricaturist and musician Dennis Preston, who was instrumental in spreading the word of the project to other artists in the Lansing community. Preston spent a few weeks working alongside fellow artists Paul Vetne and Marcus Cottom on their box in front of City Hall. 

“Our styles are similar,” Preston said. “We all know each other, have drawn together before, and even had joint shows at art galleries. We were the ones chosen to spearhead the project and to have our art showcased on the box across from the Capitol building.”