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Colorful traffic box created by local teacher

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Eric Sutton gets his first look at his artwork on the traffic box at the corner of North Harrison Street and East Mechanic Street on Friday.
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Eric Sutton poses next to his art. The traffic box was officially unveiled a couple hours later on Friday, followed by at a reception.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

Anyone heading toward Interstate 74 might notice a brightly-colored traffic box that stands out at the corner of North Harrison Street and East Mechanic Street next to the FC Tucker Shelby County parking lot.

The box, featuring an array of colors and three words on every side, was created by Loper Elementary School art teacher Eric Sutton, who was asked to come up with an education-themed design by the Shelby Arts Alliance and Blue River Community Foundation.

“Oh my gosh,” Sutton said upon first seeing it Friday afternoon. “This is better than I was hoping for! This is such an honor for me. I can’t even tell you how much an honor it is for me.”

On one side are the words “Prose, Paint, Power.” Another reads “Read, Write, Renew.” The third reads “Book, Beauty, Bloom” and the fourth says “Look, Learn, Leap.”

Sutton was initially reluctant to accept the offer in a meeting last December with the arts alliance because of his busy work schedule at school, as well as being at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis once a week.

“Then I thought I’m so busy teaching, this was a great opportunity for me to actually be an artist and to paint and to be creative and to do a creative project myself,” he said. “So then I was like, ‘I’m doing it, I’m going for it.’”

Inspired by the artist Banksy, who does a lot of stenciling artwork that incorporates text, Sutton came up with the idea of using alliteration using three words on each side during a brainstorming session with his mother. He also wanted a silhouette of an image next to each word.

He got to work on it after returning from an eight-day trip to Paris with his mother and brother this summer.

He laid out all the paintings in his classroom and, determined to get it done this summer, finished in five days.

The next step was to take the paintings to Heartland Printworks in Indianapolis, which did a high-resolution scan in a week. From there, he took it to Sport Graphics, which installed it on the traffic box.

Jennifer Jones, program officer at Blue River Foundation, reached out to the Indiana Department of Transportation for a permit that was required.

This was the first large public piece on display for the longtime teacher, who has been at Loper since 1996.

The official unveiling took place at the start of last week’s First Friday. A reception at The Gallery followed.

“I like this because it is in the community,” Sutton said. “It’s not just in someone’s house that people are walking by and get a look at it. My hope is that it affects a lot of different people in a positive way.”