SOMERS POINT — Art is popping up all over town.
Kathy Arleth, chairwoman of the city’s Arts Commission, is working with a number of local artists as well as the Green Thumb Garden Club to transform obelisks of steel around the city into vibrant works of art.
Arleth said the city's first public art project was the Richard Somers mural on the library and the second is the painting of the electrical boxes that is underway around the city.
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The electrical boxes located near intersections serve a valuable purpose as a hub for electrical wires and conduit. They also make a terrific canvas. When members of the Arts Commission started to talk about the project, members of the Garden Club pitched the idea of painting the boxes to depict local gardens with flowers indigenous to the region, according to Rosemary Evans of the Garden Club.
Arleth said that before they could proceed, the group had to get permission to paint the boxes. The first group of boxes being tackled are owned by the city and are along Bay Avenue. Arleth said once they get approval from the Department of Transportation and Atlantic Electric they will move forward with Phase 2.
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The painted boxes are hard to miss. At Bay Avenue at Miller Lane, yellow and black monarch butterflies feed on milkweed. Linda Gazsi was the artist on the project, and Chuck Westcott and Mary Sue Lovett of the Garden Club helped. The monarch box was the first one completed.
Next, the muralists took on the box near Bay and Maryland avenues, painting it with rudbeckia, better known as black eyed Susan. Bright yellow and green over a base of turquoise gives motorists and runners alike something to capture their attention. A pickup truck slowed down along Bay Avenue just to give a shout-out to the painters Thursday morning and say it was “a heck of a good-looking garden.”
That was music to the ears of the painters that morning: Arleth, Donna Mohr and Linda Keyser.
"We want these boxes to be bright, happy and joyful," Arleth said.
As Arleth explained, it is a lengthy process complete painting the boxes. Each of them had to be primed to have the surface prepped for the paint they would use next. After much deliberation, the group decided to go with a paint recommended for use in California that can take the intense sun and not fade. It is also an anti-graffiti paint. Once the painting is completed on each box, it then needs to be sealed, again to protect it from the weather. The funds for the project come from a grant from the New Jersey Council on the Arts and from city funds.
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The collaborative effort between the Arts Commission and the Garden Club has been in the works for months, and Arleth said she is happy to see the two blend together to create art in the middle of the community. Arleth and the painters and gardeners plan to finish the first 10 electrical boxes before the cold sets in and head into Phase 2 in the spring.