Urban Barn helps beautify traffic signal boxes

Canvas versions of artists' work to appear in retailer's Toronto stores

Urban Barn is going Outside the Box by participating in a Toronto art beautification program that the retailer hopes will increase its awareness among young urbanites.

The Vancouver-based furniture, home décor and accessories retailer is partnering with the City of Toronto’s four-year-old Outside the Box program that targets graffiti vandalism by having local artists paint their designs on traffic signal boxes.

Ten artists have been commissioned by Urban Barn to paint traffic boxes as well as develop canvas versions of their works that will go on display in the retailer’s Queen Street West and King Street East store windows beginning in July. The artists are installing the artwork on traffic signal boxes this week.

Urban Barn is the first brand to get involved in the program, which has so far seen almost 120 boxes hand-painted across Toronto.

“We’re all about beautifying people’s homes and now we can bring that beautification to the street,” says Brianna Matheson, marketing manager of Urban Barn.

Matheson notes traffic signal boxes tend to get vandalized, “so what better way to combat this than by commissioning local artists to actually put their art out there and make these beautiful? It really contributes to the overall look of Toronto neighbourhoods.”

Getting involved in the program gives Urban Barn an opportunity to reach a younger urban demographic in downtown Toronto that might not otherwise know the retailer, Matheson adds. “We’re trying to find ways to get our name out there in an interesting and meaningful way.”

Urban Barn’s PR firm Elevator Communications made the connections between the retailer and the City of Toronto, Matheson says. “We just loved the idea. We were able to get on board before anybody else.”  She adds the city was open to the idea of having a partner who could provide monetary support to the program.

Lilie Zendel, manager of StreetARToronto (StART), which runs Outside the Box, says the partnership with Urban Barn makes a lot of sense. “The retailer’s interest and values are a great fit with our mission to bring art and creative flair to the streets.”

Urban Barn’s ultimate goal is to get involved in similar beautification programs that target graffiti in key markets across Canada where it has stores, Matheson says.

The artwork by the 10 local artists – who were selected out of about 800 applicants – will appear in rotation in the windows of the two downtown Toronto Urban Barn locations, with signage explaining the connection between the artwork and Outside the Box.

In addition, Urban Barn’s flagship King St. Store will host an art show at the end of the summer, featuring the artists’ artwork. The show will be hosted by brand spokesperson and designer Amanda Forrest, with proceeds going to the artists.

Urban Barn is promoting its involvement in the program on social media, as well as via Forrest and its network of design bloggers.


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