Event organizer

Organizer wants to expand Welland’s Bell Box murals project

Aldo Parrotta wants to expand Welland’s Bell Box murals project, the largest outdoor art event in 35 years, and include more artwork across the city.

Last year, 17 Bell utility boxes, including nine in the north, were set aside so artists could paint in whatever style they wanted, but with a Welland-related theme.

Parrotta is looking to add eight more boxes around the city, he told city council during a recent update on the project.

“I’m very happy with it. You should all be very proud to have voted yes.

It was while visiting his daughter in Toronto that he first saw painted Bell boxes. He wanted to bring them to Welland.

The graphic designer and artist first approached the city in 2019, asking for support and funding to carry out the program.

In 2020, City Council approved $13,000 from the Recreation and Culture Fund to pay for the project, organized in partnership with North Welland BIA.

Each artist was to be paid $750 for their work, and the funds would also cover maintenance of the murals, which would be carried out by Bell field service personnel.

“You have made 17 artists and their families extremely happy,” Parrotta said, adding that the latest biggest outdoor art event was the Arts Festival project which saw more than two dozen murals painted on buildings across the city 36 years ago.

Although completed, the Bell Mural project continues to attract residents and people from out of town.

“The comments continue.”

Parrotta shared social media stats with advisers and said a post showing the photos had been shared 45 times and seen by 8,400 people in a week.

He created a map for people to drive, walk or bike around the city to see them all. This post reached 7,930 people and was shared 41 times.

“The investment was small, but the return on the art was huge. Eight more would be ideal. If it grows, even better. Hopefully we can make Welland an art exhibit.

Ward 5 County. Graham Speck, who said the artwork was fantastic, asked if any of the Bell boxes had since been vandalized. Parrotta said no.

“I’m glad to see the community respect that,” Speck said.

The boxes are coated in a way that prevents people from permanently painting on them, and any paint on them can be cleaned off.

Parrotta said that in the future he would like to find a way to make it a legacy project and ease the burden on taxpayers.

“I would like to get to the point where we don’t need someone to manage it anymore. Make it a grassroots project where every square in the city is covered with works by artists,” he said.

Ward 6 County. Bonnie Fokkens asked if Parrotta could work with the Arts and Culture Committee or the Welland Creatives Network, a newly formed group of artists in the city that is hosting an art exhibit on Friday, May 13 at Welland Museum.

“Maybe you could brainstorm with them,” she said.

Parrotta said he wouldn’t mind pursuing the project on his own, as he knows how it works.

He said if the project was to fall under the arts and culture committee, then it would be up to them and the city to promote it.

Parrotta said he spent a lot of time contacting local media and making sure townspeople and people beyond were aware.

“I became a spokesperson for the arts and tourism. I have a vision for this and ultimately I want to see every painted Bell box in town. I don’t think any other city has done this.