Thinking Outside the (Utility) Box

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Nancy Welsh puts the finishing touches on her public art project, entitled, "Reasons for Seasons."
Nancy Welsh puts the finishing touches on her public art project, entitled, \”Reasons for Seasons.\”

Nancy Welsh has left her mark on the city. Most recently, the Manchester artist has been dabbling in what you might call utilitarian art. Her medium of choice is acrylic on aluminum.

More specifically, acrylic on a rusted aluminum utility box.

Welsh repurposed the eyesore into a canvas for her four-sided retrospective detailing the four seasons of the New Hampshire birch tree.

Before and after: Nancy Welsh transformed the rusted utility box into art.
Before and after: Nancy Welsh transformed the rusted utility box into art.

She is one of three artists selected to participate in the city’s Think Outside the Box public art project, a joint undertaking of Studio 550 and Intown Manchester, meant to elevate the human spirit and enhance three high-profile and unsightly traffic signal boxes on Main Street.

Welsh’s work, titled “Reasons for Seasons,” was painted on the signal box just outside City Hall.

Robert Sardella working on his art project outside the Verizon Wireless Arena.
Robert Sardella working on his art project outside the Verizon Wireless Arena.

The other two artists are Robert Sardella, a local airbrush artist who is painting a box outside of the Verizon Wireless Arena, and Carolina Chauvette, who is creating a
colorful peacock on the traffic box outside of the Radisson Hotel.

Monica Leap explained the project, while not original, is meant to bring some whimsy to the downtown cityscape.

“I ran it by Sarah Beaudry of Intown Manchester and asked her if we could do something like this, and she said, ‘of course!’ They are always game for trying something fun and different downtown,” said Leap.

The project was made possible by generous $500 sponsorship from three downtown businesses: Baker Newman Noyes, Cityside Management Corporation, and The Granite YMCA. Sponsors provided the award for each artist and a stipend to cover the cost of materials, about $300 per artist for prep material, clear coat and incidentals.

No public funds were used for the project, said Leap.

“If we could have gotten sponsors for seven boxes, we would have done seven. If we’d only gotten one sponsor, we’d only have done one. We got three sponsors, so that’s why we did three,” Leap said.

The three artists were selected from nine entries by volunteer jurors including Sara Beaudry, newly appointed Executive Director of Intown Manchester; Scott Aubertin, owner of First Signs in the downtown; Will Stewart, Vice President of Economic Development for the Manchester Chamber of Commerce; Vicki Ferraro, Constituent Services Representative from the Mayor’s Office; and Becky O’Neil, Chair of the Manchester Arts Commission.

A peacock in progress on Main Street.
A peacock in progress on Main Street.

“Public Art is important to a city for a lot of reasons.  It highlights the local talent, it makes a city more beautiful, it provides breath of color and the human hand into an otherwise stark urban cityscape, among plenty more reasons. One of the most notable in this case is that it creates a sense of place. By this I mean it helps mark a location as unique and memorable, and it creates a sense of ownership and pride in one’s own community,” Leap said.

She would like to see the project continue next year.

“Downtown is increasingly becoming the place to be and this project is adding to what
makes our downtown special. Even though this is just the pilot year for this project, we are excited to see how it grows in the future,” Leap said.

Click the link for more information on Studio at 55o, located at 550 Elm St. in Manchester, NH.


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About Carol Robidoux 5555 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.