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Graffiti, vandalism
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Olympia fights vandalism problems by funding artwork

(Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio)

People usually complain when they hear how much cities and the state pay for artwork on transportation projects, but in Olympia that money has helped deter vandalism.

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Olympia still uses large traffic boxes to hide and protect their wires and cables used for signals and other lighting. These ugly, shiny metal boxes are dotted across the city, and they are frequent targets for vandalism.

About five years ago, the city started covering these traffic boxes with artwork.

“Initially, it was a way of connecting people to place and in some ways beautifying our downtown and adding to the vibrance and character of our community,” Olympia arts specialist Angel Nava said.

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The city has wrapped about 50 boxes so far, and it plans to wrap ten more this year. Nava said the wraps not only cover the boxes, but they keep them from being tagged.

There are 23 artist submissions up for a public vote right now, with the winners getting their art on the traffic boxes.

“Community members can go online and pick their favorite,” Nava said. “They can pick up to three, and the ones with the most votes are the ones that we’ll wrap.”

It costs between $500 and $700 to wrap each box, and each artist gets a $500 prize for being selected.

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