Art in unusual places: Hyattsville CDC, partners bring beauty to traffic boxes

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Hyattsville Community Development Corporation has partnered with Prince George's County organizations on a project to install artists’ designs on 11 traffic signal boxes. Two, including this one designed by local resident Harper Carter Matsuyama, are located in Hyattsville. Photo by Krissi Humbard

BY KRISSI HUMBARD — When you think of traffic boxes, you probably don’t think of anything exciting. But the Hyattsville Community Development Corporation (CDC) is hoping to change that.

With support from the Prince George’s County Executive’s Community Partnership Grant and in collaboration with the Prince George’s Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT), the three groups have connected on a project to install artists’ designs on 11 Prince George’s County-operated traffic signal cabinets. Also known as “traffic boxes,” the grey metal structures located at every signalized intersection are often vulnerable to graffiti and vandalism.

“Each traffic box features art that is visually appealing, dynamic and exciting: the art puts the community’s character and identity on display,” said Delegate Alonzo Washington (District 22), in a press release.

This project was designed in conjunction with the county to use public art as a way to address blight and enhance the visual landscape in some of the county’s Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative communities. Marking the project’s inaugural debut, 11 cabinets were chosen: two in Hyattsville along Adelphi Road, four in Landover along Sheriff Road, three in Coral Hills/Suitland along Marlboro Pike, and two in Hillcrest Heights/Marlow Heights along Iverson Street. Cabinets were selected for their visibility, the presence of graffiti and vandalism, and the approval of DPWT.


Ten preliminary artists’ designs were selected in March by a jury comprised of local arts and county professionals and final selections were chosen through public voting online. As a result, five designs by four Maryland artists were chosen for display: Harper Carter Matsuyama of Hyattsville, Michelle Puhl-Price of Gaithersburg, Erick Satchell of Waldorf, and Joel Traylor of Mount Rainier.

Matsuyama said she has been drawing since she was in elementary school, copying doodles she used to see her dad draw.

“It’s crazy to see something transform from my imagination, to my computer screen, and finally to something so big as a traffic box,” she said. “I’ve always wondered if I’d have the chance to leave my mark on the community I grew up a part of, and I can finally say that I have.”

According to the Hyattsville CDC, this project is the first of its kind for wrapping signal boxes in the State of Maryland. “This type of public art program sets a precedent in Maryland. With a recent statutory revision to the State Highway Administration’s procedures, we look forward to expanding this program with the support of local leaders and officials,” said Stuart Eisenberg, Hyattsville CDC executive director.

Twenty-two additional locations have been identified for the art wrap application within the City of Hyattsville.