Arts Commission celebrates Bright Box Project artists at annual gallery event

Posted 9/20/22

When Ryan Dean applied for Cranston Art Commission’s Bright Box Project, he racked his brain for an idea. Since the design had to relate to Cranston, he started off by considering the …

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Arts Commission celebrates Bright Box Project artists at annual gallery event


When Ryan Dean applied for Cranston Art Commission’s Bright Box Project, he racked his brain for an idea. Since the design had to relate to Cranston, he started off by considering the city’s history and traditions.

“But the thing that struck me the most was the memories from childhood,” said Dean, who grew up in Ward 2.

Dean was one of six applicants selected for the commission’s inaugural Bright Box Project, which included painting electrical boxes around Cranston. The commission selected an electrical box from each ward and assigned one artist to each box to complement the surrounding neighborhoods. Photos of the artists’ completed boxes now hang in Cranston Central Library’s James. T. Giles room on display until Sept. 28; artists were present for a reception on Sept. 14 and spoke about their work. Chair of the Cranston Arts Commission Danielle Izzi-St. Pierre, said the commission received a gifted pool of applicants and hopes to continue the Bright Box initiative for years to come so they can add more color and beauty to otherwise utilitarian objects around the city. She added that the commission is already preparing the application for a second round of boxes.

Dean said it was an honor to be selected for this endeavor. He knew he wanted to apply for the Ward 2 box (located at the intersection of Pontiac Avenue and Garden City Drive) since it was a few blocks from where he grew up. With memories of friends, Budlong Pool, Eden Park, skating and walking on ice at a local pond and walking to school through the autumn leaves, Dean encapsulated these memories on his box.

The brightly-colored design includes a cartoon apple, pineapple, sun and rainbow enjoying various activities. Being the owner of a small local business that creates dual language card games for kids, the illustrations for these games have evolved into a creative practice and Dean is always on the lookout for ways to share these cute creatures with the world.

Kyle Machado (whose Ward 6 electrical box is located on Sockanosset Cross Road in front of Whole Foods Market) also took a light-hearted approach to his design. Growing up in the area, Machado’s box consists of trees whose funny faces have symbolism and fun things on the bark.

“What was really weird was the box initially had funny graffiti faces on it,” said Machado.

He decided to go with a playful approach since the box’s surrounding area is family-oriented. Plus, because the electrical box was a metal object, he wanted to make it more organic and natureque.

“It was a lot of fun,” Machado said.

Fun was the way many of the artists described the experience – including Carolyn Jayne and Sharli Polanco. Both had their eyes on the Ward 1 electrical box since they lived down the street; however, Jayne ended up with the Ward 4 box at the corner of Phenix Avenue and Natick Avenue while Polanco ended up with the Ward 3 box on the corner of Cranston Street and Carolina Street.

Jayne – who is a mixed-media artist, expressive arts therapist and teacher – enjoys painting flowers and scenes from nature; her design consisted of a sunrise/moonrise.

“Painting things to make our environment beautiful is really near and dear to my heart,” said Jayne.

Because her box was at a stoplight, drivers with red lights would roll down their windows and say how excited they were for the project. Jayne said she did get the occasional “you missed a spot” but laughed along with it. She added that painting on metal was a cool experience but takes a bit of getting used to because it’s a different substrate than a canvas.

When thinking about what connected Cranstonians, Polanco came up with roads. As someone who loves maps, she started with an abstract map with big blocks of color. She had never done a mural before and had no idea where to start for this project, so she consulted the internet. Polanco transferred the design on graph paper, colored it in and transposed everything from paper to the box.

Other artists whose work was shown included Cory Kennedy and Forrest Curl. Kennedy is a mostly self-taught artist who brings the classic fine art mediums to the modern audience by blending the lines between fine art painting and video formats. He does this in a variety of ways from collaborating with other online artists and video streaming his process. His piece depicts cranes, flowers with infrastructure in part of the background and is located at the intersection of Park Avenue and Cranston Street.

Forrest Curl, a tattoo artist at Wakefield Tattoo, designed a variety of colorful fishing lures on his box that is located in Ward 1 at the intersection of Broad Street, Warwick Avenue and Norwood Avenue.

The Cranston Arts Commission is committed to enriching the arts community of Cranston and always welcomes new ideas. Cranston Arts Commission’s second annual gallery is taking place in the James T. Giles room at Cranston Central Library (140 Sockanosset Cross Road) will run until Sept. 28. In addition to the photos of the Bright Boxes (photographed by Gene St. Pierre), the artists have some of their other works hanging in the gallery. The gallery is open during library hours for visitors to stop by.  

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