Art that stops traffic tells story of Lynnwood’s history

A new public art installation using a traffic signal box at Alderwood Mall Boulevard and 40th Avenue W. in Lynnwood. (Photo by Andrea Brown)

LYNNWOOD — This city has a lot of traffic lights, that’s for sure. 

Here’s one you can toast, not cuss at.

Sparkling cider will be served at a ribbon-cutting 4 p.m. today for a new public art installation using a traffic signal box at Alderwood Mall Boulevard and 40th Avenue W., across from the Mor Furniture store.

Art that stops traffic. What’s up with that?

It’s another side to the dangling green-yellow-and-red robots that keep us in line. The banal metal signal boxes on the ground that house the signal components are being transformed into public art.

It’s a brilliant way to beautify the landscape of urban sprawl.

Cities nationwide are using paint and vinyl wraps to turn these industrial boxes into showcases of art that’s realistic to surrealistic. Fish, faces, flowers, food, abstractions, cartoons — anything goes on these cabinets-turned-canvas.

Seattle and Shoreline are among the Washington cities doing it. This is the second artsy box wrap for Lynnwood.

Fred Wong, the city’s community programs coordinator, said it’s a collaboration with the Lynnwood Arts Commission and History & Heritage Board. Wong is the behind-the-scenes guy that brings it all together with purpose. These aren’t random splashes of color.

“We do it to tell a coherent story about Lynnwood history,” Wong said. “A lot of the historical structures are all gone now. The plan is to put art elements close to where they were actually here.”

The new installation highlights the segment of the Interurban Trail that is part of the former Seattle-Everett Interurban Railway line that ran from 1910 to 1939.

The artwork with the bicycle on the front side, seen by passing motorists and people waiting at the nearby bus stop, is by artist Amy Pleasant, whose work was chosen by the arts commission.

The other side is seen by cyclists, joggers and walkers on the trail.

“The backside is an Interurban railroad car from the historical photos we jazzed up. It was black-and-white photos and we made them colorful and pop,” Wong said.

It’s a hop away from the bustle and gridlock of nearby I-5.

Lynnwood’s first signal box project last year features butterflies and flowers by Cedar Valley Community School. It’s at the intersection of 196th Street SW and Scriber Lake Road by Big Lots near Highway 99.

Another is coming soon by the student artists. “We applied for a grant to be able to do one by Wilcox Park,” Wong said.

He plans to do an interactive map online of the installations. Each box, which consists of three metal units of different sizes, costs about $3,000 to transform into art.

There are more than 60 signal boxes that maintain law and order in the congested streets of Lynnwood, which also has traffic cameras.

“Our hope is that in the future we’ll be able to wrap a lot more,” Wong said. “It is an economical way to add art, beauty and history to our public spaces. In the future we might look for businesses and individuals to sponsor them.”

For more information, go to www.lynnwoodwa.gov or email fwong@lynnwoodwa.gov.

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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