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Huntington turns traffic signal boxes into public art displays

"Sunrise on Huntington Bay" by Robert Giordano is just one piece of artwork selected to be placed on traffic signal boxes in downtown Huntington this summer. Credit: Robert Giordano

Huntington Town officials have invited artists to take part in a public art project designed to stop the use of traffic signal boxes as poster boards for random notices.

Town officials say the plain, utilitarian boxes, generally about 2 feet by 3 feet in size, are a magnet for lost-pet posters, yard-sale announcements and spray-painted graffiti, creating maintenance headaches.

"Putting art on traffic signal boxes is an exciting option that has worked well elsewhere to reduce graffiti and add to the beauty of a downtown," said town Supervisor Frank Petrone, adding the project fits into the town's Public Art Initiative, crafted in 1998 with a nine-member public art advisory committee.

Late last year, a five-member panel from the committee issued a request for proposals for the Huntington Village Traffic Signal Box Project, the likes of which have been included in Huntington's town board-approved annual public art plan since 2008. Petrone said timing and money made the project possible this year.

The panel received 16 responses and selected five finalists: Robert Giordano, Daniel Cordani and Jack Pierce, all of Huntington; Philip Jordan of Greenlawn; and Joseph Scinto of Bayport. The artists were each paid $1,600.

Linda Furey, the panel's chairwoman, said the selected works depict local settings with high recognition value, including the Huntington Bay lighthouse and the Sewing and Trade building on Main Street. The project is a real positive for the town and offers residents access to art, she said.

"People will see it when they are stopped at a light," she said. "It's not like they will always be driving by quickly."

Jordan's piece, "Shopping Bag of Plenty," is an original design he came up with because he thought it would be a "clever" placement near a supermarket. He plans to paint the design on the box himself.

"I'm an older artist and have been painting my whole life, so I chose to paint it," Jordan, 60, said.

Jordan's other work can be seen around town, most famously on the wall outside Finnegan's restaurant on Wall Street, where people are depicted in a variety of settings.

The other four artists will provide their designs to the town in high-resolution digital files. An outside vendor will use durable inks to place each image on vinyl that will be shrink-wrapped onto the signal boxes, town officials said.

Giordano, who owns an art licensing business, said his work, "Sunrise on Huntington Bay," came from an oil painting he was privately commissioned to create three or four years ago.

"I do a lot of local scenery," he said. "I love painting that subject matter; I'm an avid fisherman and boater, and get plenty of inspiration locally."

The practice of artfully decorating traffic signal boxes began in 2002 with a grassroots effort in Stamford, Connecticut, where one of the boxes, which house the controls for traffic signals, was transformed to look like a crayon box near a local Boys & Girls Club. Such decorative boxes can be seen across the country.

"It's a great project that beautifies the town and addresses an eyesore issue," Petrone said.

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