The boxART! Program is an initiative started by the City of Fremont to turn Fremont’s traffic signal control boxes into compelling pieces of art. The boxes can be found all over Fremont in various parks, sidewalks, and intersections. Read all MSJ’s boxART! artists’ — Seniors Christina Wang, Sarah Wang, and Julianna Dong — works in the interactive below and learn about them in the Q&A as well.
The Smoke Signal: How would you say that your artwork has impacted the community?
Christina Wang: I think it just makes people happier. It is really nice to see people walking by, and when they see the mural, they are like, “Oh that looks really pretty.” I always feel like adding art to the community really brightens up people’s days. Maybe it inspires them to create or maybe it is a conversation starter. When we were working on the mural, there was a father who took his 10-year-old daughter there. She also took art lessons and really liked drawing, so he asked if they could just stand there for a while. I think if my artwork can inspire people younger than me, then that’s something I want to do for other people.
Sarah Wang: I think people are happy to see that you’re making Fremont more beautiful and better looking. While we were doing the boxes, a lot of people would honk their cars or would stop and tell us that they liked what we were doing. Some people would shout compliments from their cars. So I think that was nice to see. It was really interesting seeing that people cared about seeing Fremont become more beautiful. It made me more aware about the importance of art in making people happier.
Julianna Dong: I think murals are a clear way that art impacts the community, because it’s something that people see everyday. Even if it’s [only] in their peripheral vision, it’s something that if someone takes notice, [it] can brighten their day or they can feel inspired to make things creatively on their own. Let’s see, I guess also just making art can be a very social thing, like we form a community around it or you introduce people to it. Art is definitely something that everyone has the potential to do.
SS: What advice would you give to other aspiring young artists?
CW: Just do it. It is really hard to stare at the blank canvas and white sheet of paper, but you just have to put down one line and then put down a second line. Also, it is a stereotype that most artists are really shy, but in the professional art world, you have to be a little bit more outgoing. You have to reach out and network. It is always a good idea to put your art out there in the public and show others what you’re capable of.
SW: If you want to improve and be like other professional artists, I think you have to study it pretty hard, just like you study math. That’s the biggest thing. To impact the community with their art, definitely post it on social media like Instagram. I think you can make art about social political issues that are important to you as well and express that to the community. I would definitely also suggest joining programs like Box Art, and also contests like Scholastic and Young Arts. Not giving up and facing external pressures is definitely something I personally experience and struggle with, especially at Mission. I think it’s important to not listen to what other people tell you if it makes you happy. I think you’ll know that you’re not happy when you’re doing something you don’t want to do that other people have told you to do.
JD: Definitely just draw every day, or not every day but as frequently as possible. Art is one of those things where as long as you keep drawing, even if you don’t notice it, there will always be constant improvement. For Mission specifically, just feel confident in what you do. [Know] that [art] is an important part of yourself, so don’t worry about how other people perceive you.
SS: What inspires your art pieces?
CW: A lot of things — my current inspiration now is Dungeons and Dragons. It has a lot of moving elements to it that involves a lot of character design, environment design, and prop design. A lot of fantasy movies like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Star Wars all really inspire me. I’m also really interested in illustration, especially book illustrations. I’ve always been a reader, and as a child, I really liked books with fantasy, mythology, etc.
SS: How does boxART differ from some of your other art projects?
SW: Because it was done in public at a pretty busy intersection, there were a lot of people watching you, which was kind of scary, but besides that, it just felt better to work with people. You become more creative that way, working with other people. Because we had to paint on a box, we had to consider what part of the box people are seeing, and also consider how complicated you can make it because the surfaces are harder to paint on.
SS: Through boxART, how were you able to develop your artistic abilities?
JD: In a literal sense, it’s like, “Oh, I can paint something way bigger than [the] canvases that we usually get to use. So, it helped me look at [the different aspects of art I didn’t realize before, such as], “Oh, your art should look good from a far distance and from close up.” And, it also helped me think of my art more in terms of the community and the people who will see it, like when we were painting the mural, we would have people driving by and honking or they would say, “Great job!”. At some point, there’s even this first [or] second grader who came by with her dad and she stood there, [watching] us paint for [around] 30 minutes. And, we talked with her about art so it was cool getting to see people impacted instead of just throwing the piece out there and [when] whoever sees it, you never really see the response or [get any] feedback.
Cover image courtesy of Christina Wang & Interactive map by Web Editor Mahek Bhora