Traffic Box Wraps Public Art Project

Utility Box Art Project Page BannerImage Credits (LtoR): Kobby Crabbe; Jocelyn Reynolds for StreetART Toronto/FDBIA; Tourism Hamilton; Jocelyn Reynolds for StreetART Toronto/FDBIA; Tourism Hamilton.

The City of Hamilton has completed a Public Art process to commission temporary public art to be installed on City-owned traffic signal cabinets in the Downtown Hamilton Community Improvement Project Area (DHCIPA). Installation was completed in October 2019. 

Folded map with magnifying glassWhere are the City's Utility Box Public Art Wraps? View our Utility Box Wraps Public Art Map


You are invited to join us in celebrating the installation of 37 temporary commissioned artworks on city-owned and maintained traffic signal and electrical boxes throughout downtown Hamilton.

Date: Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Time: 7 to 9 pm
Location: Mills Hardware, 95 King Street East

This is a free event. Register early as tickets are limited.

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Project Award

The volunteer citizen jury has selected thirty-two (32) winning proposals. For the list of winners and more information on the jury’s selection process and rationale, please read the Traffic Box Wraps Public Art Jury Report (PDF, 189 KB).

Public Consultation Results

The Public Opinion Survey closed Tuesday August 6, 2019. The Public was invited to review the Shortlisted Proposals, select the three (3) proposals that best reflect the competition criteria and provide comments. Opinions will assist the jury in making their final decision. Up to thirty-two (32) of the shortlisted works by artists will be selected for award and installation on Traffic Signal Boxes in Downtown Hamilton.

Public Consultation Results July 18 to 26, 2019 (PDF, 590 KB)
Public Consultation Results July 26 to August 6, 2019 (PDF, 285 KB)

Call for Artists

The call for artists closed June 20, 2019. 137 submissions were received.

Focus Group

A Focus Group was held Wednesday April 3, 2019, that determined a goal and themes artists will be asked to address in their submissions to this competition. Please review the Focus Group Report which outlines the results of that meeting.

Date Wednesday April 3, 2019
Location Visitor’s Centre, Lister Block
Time 7 to 9 pm


  • Bender Chug Chair, Main Street West Esplanade BIA
  • Lester Coloma Artist (Muralist)/Local Resident
  • Kerry Jarvi Executive Director, Downtown Hamilton BIA
  • Abedar Kamgari Programming Director, Hamilton Artists Inc.
  • Elijah Nolet Artist/Local Resident, Hamilton Youth Advisory Committee
  • Suzi Ozer Operations Manager, Downtown Hamilton BIA
  • Graziella Panessa Owner, Redchurch Café and Gallery
  • Leon ‘Eklipz’ Robinson Artist (Muralist)/Local Resident
  • Patricia Roque Land Subdivision and Land Development, Roque Group
  • Brendan Wetton Community Engagement Coordinator, International Village BIA

City Staff/Advisors

  • Ken Coit, Manager, Placemaking, Public Art & Projects – Facilitator
  • Zahra Awang, Art in Public Places Specialist, Placemaking, Public Art & Projects
  • Adrienne Kupchanko, Policy/Program Analyst, Transportation, Operations and Maintenance
  • Meredith Plant, Senior Landscape Architect, Placemaking, Public Art & Projects


  • Tim Potocic Co-Owner, Sonic Unyon / Supercrawl


This Focus Group was brought together to review plans to commission and install public art work on traffic signal and electrical boxes in the Downtown Hamilton Community Improvement Project Area and to advise on goals and themes for the art work.


The site for the proposed art work is within the Downtown Hamilton Community Improvement Project Area (DHCIPA).

Zahra Awang gave a presentation outlining the project background, public art process and context. The Utility Box Wraps public art project has been developed in partnership with the Graffiti Management Strategy Team and has an overall budget of $90,000. Zahra and Ken discussed the proposed format for the Call to Artists for this project: two parallel Calls for the digital wrapping of up to thirty (30) traffic signal boxes and up to six (6) electrical boxes. The Downtown Public Art Reserve will fund the traffic signal boxes, while the electrical boxes will be funded by Lighting and Electrical, Transportation Operations. Other boxes, mainly to the westerly side of downtown, will be wrapped with heritage-themed designs funded separately.

Two separate Calls to Artists are proposed for this project. The first will require a citizen jury to shortlist up to thirty (30) artist submissions for traffic signal boxes that will be presented for public comment to help determine ten to thirty (10-30) boxes for implementation. The second will shortlist up to six (6) artists who will be paid a fee to design proposals for a series of up to six (6) electrical boxes for implementation. Artists’ proposals will then be posted on the City website for public comment and the winner selected by a citizen jury.

A desire to include opportunities to paint boxes on site was expressed by the Focus Group. This had been determined unfeasible due the costs of artist’s insurance and lane closures for painting in the public realm. A potential alternative: artists may paint utility boxes during a festival where a street closure is already in effect, working while covered under the insurance of the festival. Street closures in Downtown Hamilton include James Street North for Supercrawl and Barton Street East for the Barton Village Festival, amongst others.


Call to Artists - Members of the Focus Group were asked to advise of any concerns and suggest improvements to the proposed Call to Artists process in order to maximize submissions.

  • Adjudication: online voting is not the most effective process for judging the merits of artwork i.e. artists with the most Facebook friends wins
  • Artists should be compensated in addition to their artist fee for a single design if their work is installed multiple times
  • An option for the painted utility boxes would be for an established artist to submit as an ‘Artist-led Team’ and mentor-collaborate with an emerging artist or community group of their choice
  • Artists should be selected based on a portfolio of work
  • The jury should include young people
  • This Call should be specific to Hamilton artists
  • Artist should be identified/credited on the utility box
  • This Call is an opportunity to support marginalized youth, emerging artists and provide mentorship
  • It was suggested artists working in more traditional mediums might need assistance with digital submissions and to this end, a partnership with a Gallery/Centre that could provide resources and training to artists in scanning and image management would be valuable

Project Theme - Members of the Focus Group were asked to address the following question as part of a general discussion:

What stories, qualities and characteristics of Downtown Hamilton should be reflected in artists’ submissions to this project?

  • Themes should be open-ended, so artists can respond with their interpretation of Downtown Hamilton
  • The utility boxes should be well-lit
  • Themes could be buildings in Downtown Hamilton; sport/soccer history; Common/Unity; shared space; the Artist’s story; railway heritage; about Hamilton Community
  • Tell a story about Hamilton
  • For the series Call to Artists, the common thread could be Hamilton through the ages, ‘a moment in time’ in Hamilton or related to Hamilton’s cultural or architectural heritage
  • Painted boxes should be an option for artists
  • In discussing how to encourage young, emerging artists to submit to the Call, ‘Street Art’ was an inclusive term that was suggested for the Call to Artists description
  • Painting a utility box during a festival could be ‘performance art’
  • Avoid sepia-toned ‘Heritage look’ for historical-themed artwork
  • Another theme could be ‘Spend It Here,’ which was a tagline/hashtag of Hamilton’s BIAs
  • Artwork should be playful, vibrant, positive
  • Artwork should not be scary or ‘doom and gloom’
  • Another theme could be ‘Breathing Life through Boxes’


Major issues that were raised included open themes for artists, graffiti-deterrence and appropriate remuneration for multiple installations of artists’ winning submissions. Overall, it was the opinion of the Focus Group that the Utility Box Wraps Call to Artists not be restrictive in terms of themes and goals for the artwork, to inspire artists to draw from their experience and generate more unique interpretations related to Downtown Hamilton. Focus Group members suggested crediting the artist on the utility boxes would be important for deterring graffiti taggers, since artists generally respect the work of their peers. Several members were also of the opinion that artists should be compensated in addition to their artist fee for a single design if their work was installed multiple times. It was also imperative to the majority of Focus Group members that artwork tell stories unique to Hamilton.

As the evening came to a close, Focus Group members reiterated what they felt to be the most important concepts. These appear in bold above and are summarized in the goal and themes as follows:


Utility box public art in the Downtown Hamilton Community Improvement Area (DHCIPA) should be vibrant, positive and reflective of Hamilton’s downtown while addressing one or more of the following:


  • Hamilton Through the Ages
  • Hamilton Stories
  • Hamilton Communities/Street Life

Next Steps

The priority statements resulting from this Focus Group along with technical and site criteria will be used by the City to develop two (2) separate Call to Artists, to be issued this Summer. The City will provide a short history/contextual summary of the area to be included in the Calls to inform artists’ proposals. One will shortlist up to thirty (30) artist submissions for traffic signal boxes and the other will shortlist up to six (6) artist submissions for electrical boxes in the DHCIPA. The jury will select winning proposals based on artistic excellence, response to the goal and theme(s), technical concerns and public comments later this Summer.

Public Art will consult with the Special Events Advisory Team (SEAT) at the City to review other potential festivals and street closures where painting utility boxes may be facilitated and reach out to their organizers for discussion.

Contact Us

Zahra Awang, Art in Public Places Project Specialist
Tourism & Culture Division, City of Hamilton
Lister Block, 28 James Street North
Hamilton, ON L8R 1A1
Phone 905-546-2424 ext. 7877
Email [email protected]