Students and Local Artists Transform Traffic Signal Boxes in Taos County | LOR Foundation

Students and Local Artists Transform Traffic Signal Boxes in Taos County

When traffic signal boxes in Taos County grew unsightly, local artists and community organizations stepped up and brought art to the streets.


New Mexico Animals, by artist Chiara Kozlovich. Photo by Daneeca Vazquez.

Throughout Taos County, traffic signal boxes at prominent intersections had grown unsightly over the past several years. Many boxes were covered with graffiti, stickers, and posters, but this year community leaders, local artists, and high school students brought them back to life. Thanks to an innovative project spearheaded by Taos MainStreet, 18 local artists—including 11 Taos County students—designed custom wraps to cover traffic signal boxes throughout the county, bringing fresh art to the streets of Taos.

Traffic signal boxes in Taos County had grown increasingly unsightly; Jackie Kolbenschlag installs artwork on traffic signal boxes. Student artist Chiara Kozlovich works with Jackie Kolbenschlag to install her design "New Mexico Animals" near the plaza; Photos by Daneeca Vazquez and Jackie Kolbenschlag.

“It took a true community collaboration to transform these traffic signal boxes,” says Charles Whitson, executive director of Taos MainStreet. “This was an amazing public art project and we are thrilled with the results.”

The initiative began with a $5,500 grant from New Mexico Clean and Beautiful—matched by the Town of Taos—which gave Taos MainStreet the initial funding to hire supervising artist Jackie Kolbenschlag and put out a call for submissions. Initially, though, artist submissions were slow, so Taos MainStreet contacted the LOR Foundation, which made a $3,200 grant that enabled them to hire a social media marketing agency to increase their marketing efforts and offer $100 stipends to each artist whose design was selected. Those efforts paid off, as nearly two dozen local artists came forward to participate. Throughout the year, Kolbenschlag worked with Acorn Graphics to print and install the wraps throughout the county—an effort that helps highlight local artists and beautify the streets.

After several months of work, 18 traffic signal boxes throughout Taos County have been transformed. Scroll through the gallery of transformed boxes below.

“Two Dragons” by Amber Bigbee

"Two Dragons" by Amber Bigbee. Photo by Daneeca Vazquez.

When my art teacher told me I had been selected, I was so excited,” says Bigbee, a sophomore at Vista Grande High School, whose design features a galaxy silhouette and two dragons. "I’m traditionally more of a portrait painter and a character designer. But I wanted to created something more general. I created a galaxy silhouette dragon—silhouettes with dragons in the background. I love public art. This will give Taos a little spice."

Amber Bigbee "Two Dragons" artist

“New Mexico Animals” by Chiara Kozlovich.

New Mexico Animals, by artist Chiara Kozlovich. Photo by Daneeca Vazquez.

“This art piece was inspired by the beauty of New Mexico. Included in it are New Mexican animals, the desert, and a Taos mountain landscape," says Chiara Kozlovich, a local student artist. "I researched different types of New Mexico animals to include in my drawing. I included ten different animals that live in New Mexico, which all come together in harmony to symbolize what we as humans need to do. In the background there is a clear Taos sky and a snowy Taos mountain to symbolize peace.”

Chiara Kozlovich "New Mexico Animals" artist

“Jim and Pol,” by Allegra Sleep

Allegra Sleep stands next to the utility box she helped transform with her painting "Jim and Pol." Photo by Kathryn Hayden.

"This is an image of a Taos cowboy called Jim and his trusty mare named Polly. My painting style combines watercolor and acrylic, abstract and figurative, and the resulting simplicity belies the difficulty. I chose to use my painting "Jim & Pol" as a submission to the Taos Utility Box Beautification project because the image is graphic and strong, the colors pop, and the subject matter pertains to Taos. I am excited and honored to be chosen as one of the artists included in the project."

Allegra Sleep "Jim and Pol" artist

“What’s with this yellow warning sign?” by Natalina

"What's with this yellow warning sign?" by Natalina. Photo by Jackie Kolbenschlag.

"When I first moved to New Mexico, I was delighted by the cow crossing signs with UFOs (I thought they were sombreros) welcoming me to Taos. Now, nearly a decade later, these signs remind me of home. That feeling and those signs are the inspiration for my box design. I love the choice of placing it by the old blinking light and toward the mountains on the way into town. If you stand in the right spot the mountains in the wrap line up with the real mountains, it's so beautiful and I am honored to participate."

Natalina "What's with this yellow warning sign?" artist

“Cactus Country Heyoka” by Sara Nall.

Cactus Country Heyoka, by student artist Sara Nall. Photo by Daneeca Vazquez.

"The desert is filled with beauty and magic even in the most desolate places. Sprit guides and plant medicines are there to guide you," says student artist Sara Nall. "Universal love and guidance is connected and flows through living things. There is a connection and forces that reminds os of the ebb and flow of the life force that creates everything."

Sara Nall "Cactus Country Heyoka" artist

“Cerro Ranch” by Lorenzo Archuleta

"Cerro Ranch" by Lorenzo Archuleta. Photo by Jackie Kolbenschlag.

"New Mexico True to me is wild horses roaming free," says Lorenzo Archuleta, a student artist. "The ranch house is from a long time ago but it is still standing. We need our water to grow our plants, to drink,and for the animals. This picture makes me feel wonderful because it makes me feel at peace and makes me feel youthful."

Lorenzo Archuleta Cerro Ranch artist

“Sangre de Cristo Winter” by Steven Bundy

"Sangre de Cristo Winter" by Steven Bundy. Photo by Daneeca Vazquez

"This image represents some of the best winter sunset sky color over the mountains north of Taos, that I have ever photographed," Bundy says. "This raw and spectacular beauty is a great representation of how I see and feel the "True-ness" of Northern New Mexico."

Steven Bundy "Sangre de Cristo Winter" photographer

“Fall for Taos” by Howard Weliver

"Fall For Taos" by Howard Weliver. Photo by Daneeca Vazquez.

"Before my wife and I even moved to New Mexico, we always thought of vast landscapes, deep blue skies gently kissed by the mountains in an awe-inspiring light," Weliver says. "For us, that will always be True, New Mexico."

Howard Weliver "Fall For Taos" artist

Additional Student Artwork

Clockwise from top left: "New Mexico True" by Isabella Griffin; "Flower Power" by Hayden Greywolf; "Taos Mountain Woman" by Ealasoii Muskrat; "New Mexico Sunsets" by Daniela Cortez; "Flower Dragon" by Autumn Huck; Meteor Shower by Jordan Hahn. Photos by Daneeca Vazquez.

Get Involved!

To learn more about efforts like this in Taos County, get in touch with Taos MainStreet and see how you can get involved.

Contact Taos MainStreet
Taos Community Officer

Reach out to connect on important matters for your community or your organization.

Taos Community Officer

Sonya Struck

Born and raised in Taos, Sonya approaches her work with a sharp eye for the values and cultural traditions that make her home unique. She understands that a resilient rural community must provide opportunity for all to prosper, and in… Meet Sonya

More Engagement Stories
Cortez Restores an Essential Community Gathering Space

Nearly a quarter century after it first opened, the Lewis-Arriola Community Center needed a little love to remain an essential community asset. With a little help from the LOR and others, the volunteer-run gathering space is ready for the next generation of celebrants. Read more

Share an Idea

If you have an idea for improving quality of life in Cortez or Monte Vista, Colorado; Lander, Wyoming; Libby, Montana; Questa or Taos, New Mexico; or Weiser, Idaho, use this form to start a conversation with us.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

By using use this site or clicking "I Agree," you agree that LOR and our partners may use cookies and some personal data for personalization and analytics. Read our Privacy Policy.

I Agree