Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's an emergency, I need some art!

Art on Call is another extremely interesting program of the nonprofit organization called Cultural Tourism DC. Some of the police and fire call boxes in DC date back to the 1860s. They were used until the 1970s, when the 911 system was introduced. The electronic guts of the boxes were removed in 1995, but, unsurprisingly, DC lacked the funds to remove the big heavy metal boxes. I couldn't find out who first glimpsed the future of the boxes as a form of public art, but the Art on Call project began in 2000 as a city/community partnership. The first task was to map the abandoned call boxes; the second was to make them safe to work on (lead paint remediation followed by application of primer); the third was to engage the artists. Twelve neighborhood organizations in different areas of DC are currently at work. They are the ones who pick the neighborhood color palette. To date more than a thousand call boxes have been identified, but relatively few have metamorphosed into public art. Jon photographed quite a few while we walked in southwest DC last weekend. The southwest neighborhood is therefore a bit ahead of the curve, but Sheridan-Kalorama not only has 16 completed call boxes but also a walking trail that connects them!

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