A proposal from Birmingham's Public Arts Board to cover the green electrical box in the planter on the west sidewalk of N. Old Woodward at the intersection of Hamilton Row with a handpainted Crayola crayon box was shot down by Birmingham City Commissioners at their meeting on Monday, May 18, as they sought a comprehensive plan from the arts board on future projects.
City planner Brooks Cowan explained to commissioners that after last year's project, a popcorn box covering an electrical box outside the Birmingham Theatre as an effort to enhance terminating vistas received a lot of enthusiasm, they looked to see where they could do the next project. One idea they had was using a pop art theme.
He noted ways the city could enhance terminating vistas was identified in the 2016 Plan.
“At this time, the board seeks approval for the painting of one electrical box and nearby charging stations to provide inspiration at this difficult time,” Cowan said. “The board determined not all electrical boxes would be painted with themes that were contextual with the surrounding buildings. The PAB selected a crayon box for the next design, based on the pop art theme. The Public Arts Board feels that the crayon box design stands out and adds a touch of whimsy and color to downtown.”
He said they decided to paint the USB charging stations at the benches because a lot of people weren't aware they were there, and the board recommended painting them as thumb drives.
Local artists John and Anne Ritchie, who is also on the Public Arts Board, were recommended as the artists to do the work. Costs for supplies were budgeted to cost no more than $500.
“It's a short-term solution and we need to keep moving towards a long-term solution,” commissioner Mark Nickita said.
“I don't support this for a variety of reasons. While I like pop art, I like it in small doses. It's a historic district, and all those buildings are historic and if any of those owners wanted to do anything with those buildings, they'd have to go before two boards,” said commissioner Clinton Baller.
“I was on the parks and rec board when the popcorn box was approved, and it was delightful,” mayor pro tem Therese Longe said. “But it had context with the movie theater. The crayon box is just out of place. I also have a concern about painting the charging stations as thumb drives because those are storage devices.”
“We should let it come back to us as a full comprehensive plan,” commissioner Stuart Sherman said.