According to broken windows theory, removing graffiti immediately prevents further vandalism as well as an escalation into more serious crime.
It's under this premise that Peter Bushe, a Roads Sign and Streetlight Project Specialist, turned to other cities best practices for inspiration.
“Places like San Francisco and Sydney, Australia saw less vandalism when they had artists paint over areas with high incidences of graffiti,” says Bushe. “Rather than offering a bare public canvass for vandals to claim as their own, the work of artists is respected.”
Last year, Busche teamed up with The City's Creative Services and Public Art and Culture teams to launch a public art pilot project. Artists were commissioned to paint over nine designated traffic signal boxes along the 16th Avenue North corridor. The location was selected simply because the boxes were all brand new and easy to monitor.
The boxes are sanded and primed, and The City supplied quality mural paint designed to be used outside. Each box is finished with a graffiti-proof clear coat to ensure the artwork is protected.
“All the artists have to do is bring their own brushes” said Busche.
What makes The City’s program different from other cities is that the approval process ensures professional artists make the cut and that artists get paid for their work. There is also a requirement that the artwork reflects a theme centered on a communal Calgary.
“In addition to reducing incidences of graffiti, this ensures we can create a community that encourages public art to beautify areas,” Busche said.
After last year's success, the project has been expanded this summer to include 20 new sites around town and the street light control boxes on 16th Avenue, from 11 St. N.W. to 5 St. N.E.
For more information, please visit calgary.ca/publicart