Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Urban art objects in Salem, MA: electrical utility boxes & street drains

Salem. Massachusetts is already familiar territory after several long visits there during the past two decades. It's called the Witch City being associated with the Witch Trials of 1692 (the Witch House is one of the most visited sites, and the witchcraft lore is the selling pitch of various tourist attractions and shops here.

But it's the rich maritime history of Salem that gives is a different living character altogether. We've combed through various shopping logs in the Phillips Library archives, some of them giving detailed description of the trade between Manila and New England, and impressions gleaned by skippers and ship captains on the life of the city and people of Manila. Maritime trade made Salem wealthy, and that can be seen from the houses built in what is now called the McIntire district, named after the architect that designed them. One walks past houses constructed in the 1700s to the 1800s for ship captains, merchants, sail makers, and other prominent citizens of Salem.

Thus, each time we get to Salem MA, we try to look for something new. In our first Halloween here in the 1990s, we found Haunted Happenings a very novel and bewitching experience: people gathering in the downtown plaza in the cold of autumn in grotesque and ghoulish costumes.

A few days ago, while roaming around downtown, what we found something new was urban art: colorful graphics on electrical utility boxes and street paintings around water drains.

There's no central theme of the utility box art. We surmise that the artist or the art group worked on a favorite subject.  There's one that resonates with the maritime trade of yore, another reflects a metropolitan scene, and some are abstract expressions.

Some of the artistic utility boxes:

This resonates with maritime history.

This recalls children's stories.

An abstract expression.

A familiar scene in urban cities.

On the other hand, the street paintings near water drains echo messages regarding the need to help protect marine biodiversity even if the water 'drains to [the] ocean'.

These are samples of these street drains paintings showing marine wildlife:

For a Pinoy on vacation in America, the question that pops in the mind is, what urban objects in Metro Manila can be used for artistic expressions for historical, current, educational, environmental, etc. issues?

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