Metro Weekly

Call to Arts

Art On Call revives DC's historic call boxes

With 27 in the downtown area alone, it’s amazing that most people never notice them. Standing there empty and impotent like silent sentinels whose days of usefulness have long since passed.

But D.C.’s historic fire and police call boxes have found a new calling. Like retirees headed back into the workforce, these sturdy soldiers once used to summon help, will soon serve as canvases communicating both history and artistic expression.

“The goal of the project, which is something that really turned me on, is to highlight the fact that D.C. has an interesting culture and history aside from the fact that it’s the nation’s capital, ” says David Bediz, art director for the Art on Call project, which is being produced by the Cultural Development Corporation. The project is currently looking for artists to transform the call boxes into three-dimensional sculptures capturing the city’s wealth of history and infusing it with art.

Although the goal is to restore the boxes throughout the city, Bediz says the downtown project’s goal is truly unique. Instead of just telling a story, he says, the downtown sculptures will create “artwork that will stand the test of time. ”

The project will look at the individual surroundings of each call box to visually illustrate the history of the neighborhood. Stories can range from personal tales of the famous, musicians, and artists, or perhaps share little known facts.

By concentrating on local people, places and events, Bediz hopes the project will instill a feeling of culture and heritage within the community.

“People often put D.C. down as culturally void, ” he says. “If you look around, D.C. has so much to offer for artists and for people to enjoy, even without the Lincoln Memorial, without the White House, without the Washington Monument. ”

Art On Call is still seeking artists to participate in the project. For more information call 202-352-8456 or visit