An uncustomary canvas: Greenfield transformer boxes, generator given unique flair by local artists

  • Near Greenfield City Hall, adjacent to the entry ramp, is a transformer box with artwork titled “Moonrise Over Greenfield,” painted by Sarah Adam. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Mary Chicoine, a lifelong naturalist with an interest in native plants and wildlife, has painted this transformer box on Fiske Avenue in Greenfield with the theme, “Bees for Life.” Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • A large generator behind Greenfield City Hall was painted by Maricella Obando Moya. It is titled, “The Sweet Flowing Red Mill.” Staff Photo/Paul Franz

For the Recorder
Published: 8/9/2022 4:36:55 PM

GREENFIELD — As part of a wider effort to revitalize downtown, three local artists have used their creative talents to beautify two transformer boxes and a generator.

According to Community and Economic Development Director MJ Adams, public art makes an important contribution in the experience of being in a downtown area. She said city officials noticed the two transformer boxes and a large generator, all within a short walking distance of City Hall, that were painted in drab colors, and decided to make them more interesting and visually appealing.

“When we have to have useful public facilities,” Adams explained, “we’d like to make them beautiful.”

The idea of painting streetside objects that would otherwise fly under the radar is far from an unprecedented one in Greenfield. Previously, community members have painted other electrical boxes and parking meters. Adams credits Recreation Director Christy Moore as the driving force behind this project.

In May, the city put out a call for local artists who were interested in “contributing to the vitality and attractiveness of (the) downtown Crossroads Cultural District streetscape,” with a driving question of “How can we make people more interested in their community?” The final decision on the artists and designs came from the mayor’s office, alongside the Community and Economic Development Department. Adams said she is satisfied with the work contributed by the artists — Maricella Obando Moya, Sarah Adam and Mary Chicoine — saying that the city ended up with three beautiful designs.

The largest of the painted objects is a generator located in the parking lot behind City Hall. This piece, painted by Maricella Obando Moya, is titled “The Sweet Flowing Red Mill.” Obando Moya describes the scene as being a tribute to Greenfield’s agriculture, noting that, when she thinks of Greenfield, she thinks of the many farms and barns in the surrounding countryside.

In addition, this generator contains an “Easter egg” — that being a small mailbox informing passersby how to get to City Hall. Adams said she appreciates this detail.

“It’s colorful, it’s beautiful, it’s attractive, it’s enticing, and has the added advantage of giving people a little direction,” Adams said.

Also near City Hall, adjacent to the entry ramp, is a transformer box with artwork titled “Moonrise Over Greenfield,” which depicts the downtown skyline and Poet’s Seat Tower under a rainbow-painted night sky. The artist, Sarah Adam, said she wanted to create something involving landscapes and landmarks for Greenfield, but also wanted a calm landscape, painted with Pride colors. She had noticed that, in pictures of events taken before the transformer box was painted, it stood out when compared to the colorful outdoor dining area nearby.

Regarding her creative process, Adam said, “I don’t know, I’ve just gotta paint.”

The third box is located on Fiske Avenue, and, like a part of Obando Moya’s box, is focused on bees. The artist, Mary Chicoine, is a lifelong naturalist with an interest in native plants and wildlife. Her piece, “Bees for Life,” was inspired by Greenfield’s bee theme — which pays homage to Greenfield resident Lorenzo Langstroth (1810-1895), an American apiarist, clergyman and teacher who is considered to be the father of American beekeeping.

Chicoine’s design was originally sketched at 8.5-by-11-inches to figure out the four sides, and then enlarged to be painted on the transformer box. Chicoine said she is thrilled to add some beauty to the downtown area, and wrote a message on the side of the box to encourage people to grow native plants.

Funding for the painting project comes from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Shared Streets and Spaces Grant Program. The cost of the project, including artists’ stipends and material costs, was roughly $2,686, of which $2,050 went toward stipends. The Shared Streets and Spaces program also funded work on Court Square, as well as the reconstruction of the pocket park on Main Street and Greenfield’s outdoor dining setup. Adams said MassDOT recognizes — especially during the pandemic — that people need to be outside more, adding that it’s great the city has access to these resources.


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261


Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy