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Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Artists invited to make utility boxes beautiful

January 19. 2014 10:08PM

Big, ugly utility boxes are such a part of our city's landscape, you may not even notice them. But now there's a movement in Manchester to make them stand out.

In its never-ending efforts to make the Queen City a cooler place to live, Studio 550 Art Center is leading an effort to have several downtown traffic signal boxes painted by New Hampshire artists. Any amateur or professional artist who lives in New Hampshire may apply. Monica Leap, founder of 550 Art Center and the organization's programs manager, said she can't take credit for the idea.

"Many other cities around the U.S. and the world have done this before," Leap e-mailed The Scene. "I studied public art when I was in grad school, and I'm always delighted by the different innovative ways art can work its way into the urban fabric."

Leap said the project has been a collaboration of the art center, the highway department, mayor and aldermen. Intown Manchester helped her navigate the approval process and is looking for financial sponsors.

"There has been overwhelming support for it from the city," Leap wrote.

The nine-page application indicates that this is a thoughtful effort with serious goals to beautify the city, add vitality and attractiveness to downtown, and deter graffiti. Detailed submission guidelines include suggestions that images be engaging and reference Manchester's character, history, community or the immediate environment. Designs should be detailed enough to prevent graffiti temptation, and refrain from dark colors to keep the boxes from overheating in the sun.

Deadline for submissions is March 7 at 9 p.m. A jury including Sara Beaudry of InTown Manchester, Will Stewart of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Vicki Ferraro of the mayor's office, Becky O'Neil of the Manchester Arts Commission, Alderman Pat Long, and Scott Aubertin of First Signs, will select up to five images that they feel best reflect the intentions and guidelines of the project.

Winning artists will each get a $300 stipend. They are expected to paint their boxes in April and are responsible for keeping their work clean and graffiti-free for one year. Leap said each finished painting will be coated with clear, graffiti-repellent material.

"It would be great to see them stay gorgeous for years to come and each year we can hold this call for artists and start to spread the public art to traffic signal boxes beyond downtown. When they start to look tired, we will repaint them with a new artists' design."

I love this project and cannot wait to see some of the creative ways artists meet this challenge.

Applications are available at There is a $25 application fee.

More fun at Mighty Mac

In search of the Lost and Found at McIntyre Ski Area last week, I happened upon some closed doors with a sign warning that a yoga class was in progress inside. Confused, I asked an employee what it was all about and she directed me to a flier about Slopeside Yoga with Arielle.

Sounds fancy. Did I move to Aspen?

The five-week yoga class, which began earlier this month, is designed to prepare skiers and snowboarders for a day on the slopes, help them prevent injury and improve stamina. In addition to being a certified yoga instructor, teacher Arielle Eckhaus Welch is a ski and snowboard instructor.

Slopeside Yoga is just one of the new non-skiing activities that is making the Mighty Mac feel less like a ski area and more like a ski resort. Here are other out-of-the-box events and activities planned at 50 Chalet Way this winter:

On Sunday, Feb. 23, families are invited to a Murder Mystery Dinner Show to kick off February school vacation week. Billed as part of the McIntyre Entertainment Series, this comical, interactive show includes an Italian dinner for a $45 ticket, when purchased in advance.

On Monday, March 3, a Ladies Night will offer two hours of tubing, a barbecue, fire pit and cash bar. This event is for women at least 21 years old, which makes it perfect for the moms out there who may think McIntyre would be so much more fun if their kids stayed home. The cost is $21.95 per person.

On Sunday, March 9, it's Snow Golf. This 9-hole course will be played in the evening under the lights. Participants may bring one club and as many "colorful balls" as they like. (Notice it doesn't specify golf balls.) Creativity is further encouraged with required costumes. The cost is $29 per player and the fun starts with a kick-off party in the lodge at 6 p.m.

For more information on all the fun, new things happening at McIntyre, visit

NH365.ORG Event of the Week

Who doesn't like ax juggling? You can see some this Saturday when the Dana Center at Saint Anselm College hosts "Timber," a show by Canadian circus art group Cirque Alphonse. In addition to dangerous juggling, this tribute to North America's first loggers, farmers and lumberjacks promises aerial acrobatics using local forestry products.

The Dana Center may bring in performances that sound weird, but they are always entertaining, and I applaud the theater for bringing different and surprising acts to the area.

Tickets for "Timber" are $33.75. You can find out more about this event, and other strange things happening around Manchester at

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