Calling all artists

Have you ever wished your art could be displayed in a permanent location where thousands of people could see it?

If so, the city of Ashland has a deal for you.

In February, the City Council approved plans to have artists paint several drab green utility boxes around town.

A $1,500 grant from the Jackson County Cultural Coalition and a donation of paint and materials from Miller Paint Co. made the project possible.

The city is now seeking proposals from artists who would like to paint a utility box. Each artist will receive a $100 stipend for painting a box. You can submit up to three ideas.

Seven utility boxes have been identified for the project. For artists, the boxes are in prime spots.

With two boxes on A Street and two more on Oak Street, they're likely to be seen by the crowds of people who visit galleries on those streets during the First Friday Art Walk, when galleries stay open into evening hours on the first Friday of each month. Two more utility boxes are located just off busy Lithia Way, with another near U.S. Bank.

The original deadline for submissions was May 1, but that date came and went with the city receiving only three submissions, all from the same artist, said city of Ashland Management Analyst Ann Seltzer.

The Ashland Public Arts Commission has extended the deadline from May 1 to May 29.

Seltzer said there was a great deal of interest in the project right after the City Council approved it.

"I even got phone calls from folks wanting to submit designs," she said.

Seltzer advised people to watch for the "Call for Artists" to be posted on the city's Web site on April 1. She surmises that people may have forgotten about the project in-between the time that the City Council approved the project and when the city posted entry information on its Web site.

With the entry deadline now extended, artists can visit to read more about the project.

You can download an easy application form. It describes how the theme for the project, "Reflections of Ashland," means that designs could include images that reflect Ashland's natural beauty, cultural offerings, history and distinctive charm.

The application form also includes a template where you can draw or paint in your design. (I would recommend colored pencils, markers or watercolors since it's a paper template.) The application asks you to include items like a resumé describing your artistic experience, a description of how your design is a reflection of Ashland and a small sample of your past works in the form of photos, slides or a CD.

Notification of winning entries will come on June 19.

The Public Arts Commission will hire a professional to prepare the utility boxes for painting. (Imagine, a ready-made, large-scale place to do your art without having to build a wooden frame, stretch out the canvas and slather on the gesso before you can even get started.) Artists whose work is selected will begin painting on Thursday, July 16, and can continue painting through Saturday, July 18. All artists are required to use paints provided by Miller Paint Co.

The Public Arts Commission will hire a professional to apply a vandal-proof coating on Sunday, July 19, to help preserve your masterpiece.

So artists, break out your sketchbooks and start brainstorming ideas. It's up to you to make this project a success by turning utility box eyesores into beautiful works of public art scattered around town.

If you want some inspiration, visit Google and do an image search using "utility box art." You'll be amazed at how people from around the world have transformed the utility boxes in their communities.

Tidings staff writer Vickie Aldous and Tidings correspondent Angela Howe-Decker alternate as author of the weekly column Quills & Queues.

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