By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Move over Dog Rock, there’s about to be some competition for Walpole’s most impressive painting covering up a former town eyesore. Yes, the Walpole Cultural Council (WCC) and Keep Walpole Beautiful are working in cooperation to turn seven metal electrical boxes into works of art when the weather warms up. But while you never had a say in the giant rock on Plimpton Street getting turned into Snoopy, the electrical boxes are open to anyone with an idea.
Yes, the WCC and Keep Walpole Beautiful are teaming up to hold a contest, open to people of all ages and experience levels for electrical box painting designs that “reflect the natural beauty of our town.” Artists are encouraged to submit the piece in full color using markers, watercolors or acrylic paint on an 8 ½ by 11-inch paper, placed in a large manila envelope, to Walpole Town Hall by April 15. There is no entrance fee.
While you might not have been bothered by the metallic appearance of the electrical boxes, or thought twice about them when you drove by, according to Keep Walpole Beautiful’s Rebecca Joyce, painting the boxes was a hot topic on social media, but nobody had taken the initiative to get the ball rolling.
“We have these big boxes all over town and a couple of them are right in the town center - so they’re pretty much right in your eye as you’re driving - at all these intersections throughout town. For a long time, we have seen a lot of social media posts where people have kind of been noticing these boxes and saying ‘Hey, is there anything we can do about them?' Because other towns, Medfield has some, Norwood has a few, Natick has a lot, - [they] have all painted these boxes or wrapped them in what’s almost like shrink wrap in order to have art installations installed on these things that would otherwise be big industrial metal boxes. Knowing there were a lot of people talking about it but nobody actually knowing how to do it, Keep Walpole Beautiful, which is a chapter of Keep Massachusetts Beautiful, knew other chapters that had done it before, so we thought it would be a fun idea for us to do in Walpole and that it would be something in line with our mission of beautification of the town.”
Joyce reached out to other towns that have undertaken the same project (as well as a professional mural artist from Woburn, who specializes in painting these boxes) to get a sense of what types of paint to use, what the preparation process was, and for how long they will hold up. “These are not forever installations, they will fade over time," she concluded. "But if done well, you should be able to get a good ten years out of them.”
There were a couple of ways the boxes (which house the electronics that control the traffic lights) could have been handled, from hiring a professional artist to paying for the shrink-wrapping system. Unfortunately, both the wrapping idea and hiring a professional artist were very expensive.
“We’re basically a volunteer coordination organization that just kind of sees a need and fills in a need and tries to do some fun things. Last year, we painted some kindness rocks and spread them all over town. The wraps were obviously not going to work. We kind of held off on moving forward because we didn’t know anyone who’d done the paint and didn’t know if it would hold up. It wasn’t really until we started having conversations with other towns that we decided to go the paint route because it’s much less expensive. For the price of two boxes, you can do a whole lot of them.”
On top of that, having a contest in which Walpole residents use their own creativity to highlight the natural beauty of their own town on something they will drive past every day is just more fun. And having fun is one of the main goals of the whole project.
“It just seemed like this was a good year to do it, especially with everything that’s been going on - just to have something a little fun and something exciting to look forward to.”