Electrifying Art

Madison’s Switch Box Project
displays local artistic talent

Project allows artists to create paintings
on once drab boxes

(January 2018) – The Madison Area Arts Alliance continues to inspire and nurture the arts and culture of Madison, Ind., and Jefferson County. The “Switch Box Project” is one way in which this is being done. This project promotes local artists through the public art displays. The “Switch Box Project” started a few years ago with many conversations between alliance members and members of the community. It is not an original idea. Other communities have painted artwork on switch boxes.

Madison Switch Box Projects Installed

• Walnut Street: Larry Rudolech. Sponsor: Farmers Bank of Milton
• Mulberry Street: Jane Vonderheide. Sponsor: Midwest Tube Mills Inc.
• Cragmont Street: Patty Cooper Wells. Sponsor: Lanthier Winery
• Jefferson Street: Harry Elburg. Sponsor: German American Bank
• Broadway Street: Alann Boatright. Sponsor: Wallis Family Fund
• Mill Street: Eric Phagan. Sponsor: VisitMadison Inc.
• West Street: Janie Mahoney. Sponsor: Community Foundation of Madison & Jefferson County.

The conversations expanded to the Indiana Department of Transportation. This is when the project stalled. INDOT expressed concerns with the paint interfering with the operations of the switch boxes.
During this time, Randy Mahoney, an alliance member, traveled to Bozeman, Mont., on vacation. While there he took pictures of switch boxes that displayed artwork that weren’t painted. They were wrapped in vinyl. Once he returned to Madison, he shared with fellow committee members the idea, causing the “Switch Box Project” to be revisited.
INDOT was contacted again and presented the project using artwork on vinyl instead of painting the boxes. This was an acceptable alternative. Soon the process of getting permits began, and parameters for the project were devised.
For example, the artwork could not be 50 percent or more black or a dark color to prevent the sunlight causing the switch boxes to overheat. This process included coordinating with local businesses, issuing a call for art, and production, all of which has taken a year.
The “Call for Art” in September generated more than 50 entries. An anonymous panel of judges individually reviewed the entries ranking them. This information was gathered and tallied determining the finalist. Then the finalists’ artwork was reviewed to ensure that the designs could be transferred onto the vinyl and would read well from the street.
RKO Enterprises’ fabricator Troy Seel transferred the artwork onto vinyl. Seel has more than 17 years of experience and is an artist specializing in oil painting. Each switch box required precise measurements and individual templates for installation. After careful consideration, seven artists were selected for the first round in downtown.
Just visit downtown Madison and you will see artwork appearing on what used to be drab metal traffic switch boxes. The transformation of the boxes into public artwork is the “Switch Box Project.” It is part of the Madison Area Arts Alliance beautification of Main Street promoting area artists and local culture.

Photo provided

This electric switch box on Broadway Street in Madison, Ind., shows the work of artist Alann Boatright.

The switch box becomes a piece of art adorning seven key intersections along Main Street. The following intersections have been designated for displays:
• The Walnut Street switch box will feature the artwork of Larry Rudolech. It is sponsored by Farmer’s Bank of Milton.
• German American Bank is sponsoring the Jefferson Street switch box featuring work from local artist Harry Elburg.
• What you will see on Mulberry Street is a composition by Jane Vonderheide. This switch box is sponsored by Midwest Tube Mills Inc.
• Janie Mahoney’s design can be seen on the West Street switch box, which is sponsored by the Community Foundation of Madison & Jefferson County.
• Broadway Street switch box shows the artistic production of Alann Boatright. It is brought to you by The Wallis Family Fund.
• The Mill Street switch box artistic production is created by Eric Phagan, whose sponsor is VisitMadison Inc.
• The Craigmont Street switch box exhibits the work of Patty Cooper Wells. It is backed by Lanthier Winery.
Each box is unique representing many facets of Madison’s culture. You will be able to view artwork featuring children, river activities (of course the Madison Regatta), historic sites, plus scenery depicting the beautiful natural resources of the area. The city of Madison, INDOT and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, which awarded the place making matching grant, plus local artists and businesses worked together as a team led by the alliance.
This is the first round for the switch box project, and according to the alliance’s Public Arts team member Steve Joslin, “The team is hoping to expand this public arts project to other parts of our community, including the hilltop along Clifty Drive and Hanover areas.”
If it is well received by the public and pending funding, the artwork will rotate every 18-24 months and new artists will be highlighted.
According to the alliance’s executive director, Kim Nyberg, if all goes well, a second “Art Call” could be made in January. “It is our hope to enhance all parts of our community and add a sense of contemporary design to the streetscape. We hope to bring images that evoke an emotion – a smile, happiness and pride, while celebrating the talent we have in our area.”
Having finished seven switch box paintings in mid-December in the downtown, the alliance is planning a special tour of them at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20. Guests will be able to meet the artists and the sponsors and ride the Madison Trolley to each switch box. Everyone is invited, and the Madison Trolley will pick up folks in the Main Street Parking lot (at Poplar and Main streets).

• For more information, call the alliance at (812) 801-9863.

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