Easthampton utility box has new ‘energy’ thanks to Amy ‘BannerQueen’ Johnquest

Last modified: Thursday, October 22, 2015

EASTHAMPTON — While stilt walkers aiming to calm traffic captured the attention of many drivers on Cottage Street, another kind of art performance was happening outside the Municipal Building during ArtWalk on Saturday.

The dull green utility box at the corner of Payson and Williston avenues was in the process of being transformed into a colorful public art installation by Amy “BannerQueen” Johnquest.

While her piece seemed to be taking shape Saturday afternoon, Johnquest, of Holyoke, said she still had her work cut out for her. After 30 hours of work, she was busy laying down a second coat of paint on the box. She continued working on the project Sunday.

The piece features electric bolts, bold colors and word play associated with electricity.

“This is a classic BannerQueen design,” Johnquest said as she painted details with a small brush. “I work in the genre of old traveling-circus sideshows.”

Indeed, the electrical box features velvet curtains, and the words “electric,” “alive,” and “zap,” plus a third phrase that turned out to have a second meaning.

The rear side of the electrical box — facing the mayor’s office — is painted with the words “Power to the people.”

“Most of the people who are going to see it are in that building, which is the Municipal Building,” she said. She added that she didn’t intend the message to be one directed at elected officials, though she enjoyed the coincidence.

She began work on the project Aug. 4, and said it was interesting to work before the eyes of passing pedestrians and motorists.

“I think it’s cool that people can see a little taste of what it takes — it doesn’t just appear,” she said. “Sometimes when people honk their horns it’s jarring.”

Johnquest’s proposal was selected by a jury appointed by Easthampton City Arts+ after a call for submissions. She received a $500 stipend from the public arts group.

Johnquest said most of the paint she used was donated by Manchester Hardware in Easthampton.

Chris Lindahl can be reached at clindahl@gazettenet.com.


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