Readers who grab a copy of the Syracuse New Times each Wednesday can now look forward to picking it up in nifty, freshly painted newspaper boxes. Over the last few months, local elementary school students across Syracuse have taken old newspaper boxes and transformed them into creative works of art to be used and displayed across Central New York.
More will be decorated on Saturday, July 28, when the Syracuse New Times will be holding a newspaper box painting contest along Montgomery Street. The contest will run from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. near City Hall. At the same time, the Syracuse New Times Street Painting Festival returns. There will be a Sidewalk Arts Contest, during which participants use chalk to decorate a sidewalk square; a Master’s Competition, for artists looking to recreate a famous piece of art, in chalk; and a Figure Drawing Competition, using live models, who will be clothed.
Prizes will be awarded, and some artwork will be displayed in the front, street-level windows of New Times world headquarters, 1415 W. Genesee St. If you’re not an artist, but appreciate quality art, the Street Painting competition always provides a pleasant way to spend a sunny summer Saturday in downtown Syracuse. We will provide chalk, but you’re welcome to bring your own.
But back to the box painting. Last January, New Times publisher Bill Brod gave Mary Lynn Mahan’s Art Club at Ed Smith Elementary School, 1106 Lancaster Ave., and Robert Loring’s kindergarten through fifth grade classes at Elden Elementary School, 29 E. Oneida St., Baldwinsville, old newspaper boxes from which readers grab the weekly edition. The students took the newspaper boxes—admittedly, a little beat up and worse for wear—and returned masterpieces.
Mahan’s classes chose three different designs for each box. One group selected a “henna tattoo” design, using the sketches of Rona Saleh, a new fifth-grade student from Yemen. After marveling at the henna designs she created all year long, the students in her group decided to put them to use for the project. The box was painted light purple with colored flower designs throughout.
Another group of Mahan’s students chose an animal print theme, featuring leopard spots, giraffe prints and zebra stripes. The front of the box has a mural of a sunset with student signatures. The final box Mahan’s class designed takes on a graffiti look, with textured brown bricks and brightly colored writing.
According to Octavia Essi, a fifth-grader, the students picked out words and phrases to paint across the graffiti box, including “passion,” “dream,” “creativity,” Native American symbols and “peace” in different languages. The final touch was the paint handprints of everyone who had worked on the box.
Mahan explains that between cleaning, prepping, painting and lots of re-painting, the students spent almost every class on their creations. “It took a lot longer than we expected. People may not realize how much work was put into them,” Mahan explains. “They aren’t simple at all; they’re quite sophisticated.”
Adds Essi: “Everyone was really committed to them. Sometimes we’d even take them home over the weekend to keep working.” These boxes were the club’s final project of the school year, and most of the students were members of the art club their entire six years.
On the other side of town, the Elden Elementary students also worked hard to transform the paper boxes into works of art for the community to enjoy and use. After two months, Robert Loring’s classes created two 3-D designs, on display and in use around the village.
One box, coated with magnetic paint and covered with plastic petri dishes, features student drawings. The drawings were cut into circles and inserted in petri dishes, which were then placed on the box using magnets. According to Loring, in each petri dish, the students drew a symbol or picture representing what Baldwinsville means to them. Some students drew sports equipment, some drew parks, and others drew their favorite restaurants.
This box will be placed in front of the B’Ville Diner, 18 E. Genesee St. Baldwinsville, and some of the petri dishes on the box remain empty so customers waiting in line can insert their favorite recipes which community members can take home. “I think the students liked this box the best because it got everyone involved,” Loring explains. “Every student contributed; plus, members of the community can contribute too.”
Loring’s classes also created a Baldwinsville Bee, the school’s mascot, using the second newspaper box. The creation features different sports equipment such as a lacrosse stick, football and helmets; the box was also painted with red and black stripes, the school’s colors.
Syracuse New Times Street Painting begins with registration at 8 a.m. Saturday, July 28 on Montgomery Street near City Hall (look for the blue New Times tent). All contests have a registration fee of $15 for youth, $25 for adults and $30 for the Master’s Competition. Prizes of cash and gift cards, acrylic paints from Golden Artist Colors, other supplies from the Art Store, and a figure-drawing class will be awarded.
For more information or to download a registration form for any of
the contests, visit syracusenewtimes.com. Registration and payment can
also be made over the phone by calling 422-7011, or stopping by the Syracuse New Times office at 1415 W. Genesee St.