Wednesday, February 17, 2016
27 Blue Boxes are painted on sidewalks in Downtown Orlando. These boxes are for panhandlers and buskers. Back when they were painted, they were referred to as beggars boxes. Panhandling is possible only during day light hours. Although set up for panhandlers, police often insist street performers must use the blue boxes. If you loiter on the sidewalk, you are suspect. Performing outside the boxes can result in 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. I have started a series of 27 sketches in which performers utilize these Blue Boxes. These Boxes represent the only places downtown where theoretically there is complete freedom of expression.
Angel Jones is a Fashion designer, stylist, model, writer, and artist from Melbourne Florida. Angel has spearheaded a Facebook group called, "Artists Unite! A group formed to protect all artists and our freedom" This page unites artists from around the state as cities like Winter Park and Saint Augustine create unconstitutional laws limiting freedom of expression. Orlando doesn't have an ordinance specifically banning artistic freedom of expression, but the police do not see the difference between creative expression and panhandling.
Finding these blue boxes is a bit of a treasury hunt. I arrived at the intersection of Amelia and Hughey and found a complex jumble of spray painted marks. Surveyors are marking up the sidewalks probably to keep track of electrical and plumbing lines. A block a way the "Creative Village" is now a desert of sand and dirt. Sidewalks and pavement are all being ripped up for whatever is to come. There are several Blue Boxes in this construction zone which may no longer exist.
Angel was a bright splash of color on an otherwise drab and grey downtown street corner. She created handmade Victorian cupcake dress herself with countless hours spent sewing the brightly patterned fabrics. Her wig was bright pink an her necklace had every color of the rainbow. Angel's Insanity and Bazaar Bazaar the clothing line, features her unique handmade creations. She chatted about her army brat upbringing and leaving home at the age of 15. Although considered the black sheep by her family, she clearly made the right choice to pursue an art inspired life. At protests she is the most exuberant champion for artistic freedom of expression.. She is a dynamic force who you definitely want on your side.
Students from Orlando Tech were the most common pedestrians. They would often stop to chat with Angel to find out what we were up to. A father and daughter on bike stopped to watch me sketch for bit. She is an artist and wanted to know how I sketch so fast. My advice was to loosen up and accept the imperfections. A sketch by definition is incomplete. A bright pink Lynx bus rushed by accentuating the pinks in Angel's hair and dress for a moment.
I never saw a police patrol car. The police station is several blocks to the south of this Blue Box. Angel didn't have an open case, or tip jar and if she did, I doubt any bills would have been dropped in. Once again the blue box was far removed from businesses where executives in suits might wander out during their lunch hour. They were safe from the threat of art. If you know someone who might want to join the Blue Box Initiative, send them to the group page which is where these sketch sessions are scheduled once a week.