Launched in 2013, the Outside the Box program is transforming the city’s intersections one traffic signal box at a time. For the past two years, local artists have submitted entries to StART to have their work featured on the boxes, and 20 proposals were selected each year based on their creativity, ties to the surrounding neighbourhood, and likelihood of preventing future graffiti. Busy designs with few uncovered areas tend to be the most successful in preventing taggers from leaving their mark. The first box paintings appeared in 2013, and a second round of designs will be rolling out this summer.

See below for a photo gallery.

The boxes, situated at every signaled intersection, had been costing the city a significant amount to keep clean and free of graffiti. StART decided to run a pilot project wherein the boxes were painted or wrapped with a decorative design in order to minimize graffiti and increase the presence of art on street corners. Toronto is not the first municipality to experiment with beautifying these plain pieces of infrastructure; similar projects have been undertaken in Vancouver, Calgary, Seattle and Burnaby, BC.

Kristina Hausmanis, project lead at StART, says program coordinators have been “thrilled” with the results after the first year. “We were so immediately surprised at the community feedback about them,” she said. Most of the boxes have remained free from graffiti tags and stickers, one of the project’s aims.

“We’re looking for high visibility locations,” Hausmanis said of the selection criteria for the intersections displaying the art. “But also boxes that have been having issues with graffiti vandalism.”

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Hausmanis sees the program as a fantastic way to support both established street artists and up-and-coming creatives. “It’s a great way for an artist who’s making that transition to the public realm without having such a large canvas as a mural.”

StART’s intention is to beautify as many of the city’s signal boxes as possible. “It gives people the ability to connect with their surroundings. It’s a way to engage and start conversations not just with artists but […] about art,” Hausmanis declared. “And sometimes, [the boxes] just bring a smile to your face.”

For more information on street art in Toronto or the Outside the Box program, see


Below is a photo gallery with a sampling of art-influenced traffic signal boxes:



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