These public artworks in Dublin really can stop traffic

Dublin Canvas is turning the city’s dull, grey traffic light boxes into colourful street art


Have you noticed that tasty-looking Neapolitan ice-cream sandwich on Leonard’s corner? Maybe you’ve stopped to admire the old telephone box in Crumlin village? Or, like this journalist, do you find a small smile creeping across your face each time you walk by the “A ghrá, mo chroí, Dublin City” message at the corner of St Patrick’s Park on Bride Street?

Over the past year, a wide range of imaginative pieces of art have begun cropping up on traffic light control boxes around the city, brightening up these formerly grey, drab-looking junction fixtures. What began as 15 boxes dotted along a few streets in central Dublin (Rathmines Road, Camden Street and Baggot Street) in summer 2015 has spread across the city, with these once-dull, heavily tagged boxes transforming the streets of Dublin into a walking gallery of public art.

The Dublin Canvas community art project was set up to bring flashes of colour and creativity to previously unused public spaces around the capital, says project co-ordinator David Murtagh.

“The main objective of the Dublin Canvas is to ‘colour in the city’,” he says. “Artists have complete freedom on how to achieve this.”

Win-win situation

Murtagh says the traffic light control boxes’ location at traffic junctions makes them the perfect, highly visible canvas for artists to exhibit their work to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists as they wait for the traffic lights to turn green.

There are now 116 boxes spread right across all Dublin City Council areas featuring artwork by designers, illustrators, stencil artists, fine artists and street artists, with all ages taking part in the initiative, from schoolchildren to retirees. Dublin Canvas plans to have coloured 200 boxes around the city by 2017, says Murtagh.

“Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones. There is an abundance of highly creative, talented artists living in Dublin. These artists love to exhibit their work to the public.”

Artists or community groups interested in getting involved can sign up on the Dublin Canvas website