If you’ve walked in and around Capitol Hill, you’ve seen them, but you probably had no idea what they were. 6-foot tall brown curvy posts of some sort, typically with a empty, see-through round frame up top. What are those and what purpose do they serve? They’re police and fire call boxes, and in recent years, they’ve become the object of community art projects in the area.
The boxes were installed in the mid-1800s, but the creation of 911 gave them their final shove toward obsolescence. Because they are too bulky and troublesome to remove, they’ve remained– ugly and purposeless shells. In 2000, Art on Call was born — a call to artists to re-purpose the boxes. Cultural Tourism DC and the Commission on the Arts and Humanities have paired up to fund grants for the boxes, working with local neighborhood organizations.
Currently the Capitol Hill Northeast Neighborhood Association is calling for project proposals for five call boxes, as is the Trinidad Neighborhood Association. Artists from those neighborhoods are encouraged to submit projects.