Spotlight on the Town of Torbay and Artist Brenda Rowe

If you’ve driven through Torbay recently, you might’ve noticed some bright additions to the picturesque town.

Two of the traffic boxes in the area (along the Torbay bypass road at both the Torbay Road and Bauline Line intersections) have received a makeover thanks to visual artist and Business & Arts NL member Brenda Rowe, working in partnership with the Town of Torbay.

Visual artist Brenda Rowe.

Rowe’s vibrant traffic box art brings to mind all of the things that make summer in Newfoundland and Labrador so spectacular. Adorning the traffic box at the Torbay Road intersection, which was painted back in August, are brightly-coloured wildflowers, brilliant butterflies and a dragonfly dancing against clear blue skies (click here to see a video of Rowe at work). On the box at the Bauline Line intersection, a pair of icebergs float majestically in a deep blue sea. The art immediately commands attention, beckoning passersby to slow down and soak in their surroundings.

The project also gave curious onlookers the chance to speak with the artist and ask questions while she worked. It’s these interactions, says Rowe, that makes it especially worthwhile.

“I would come home from my day job and paint for a few hours, usually from around 4:30-7pm. It was a great time to paint as people would be on their way home from work,” says Rowe, as she recalls painting the first traffic box.

“When they stopped at the lights, they would yell out to me telling me how beautiful the work was. Some asked questions about my favourite flower, and some about the techniques I was using…some even gave me suggestions for the next box!” she adds.

“I find the energy created by interacting with people, getting their opinions on the image, encourages me while painting. Art is mostly a solitary endeavour, so I relish the times that I can get out of my studio and interact with the public.”

This spring, Rowe will paint a third traffic box, at the intersection of the Torbay bypass road and Indian Meal Line. The design will be chosen via a contest on social media – engaging the community in the artistic process.

“It was quite successful and it gave me more ideas than I could believe,” Rowe says.

“It is wonderful to hear what the public is thinking and to find out what subject matter they are interested in.”

Besides the traffic box art program, the Town of Torbay has been supportive of other artistic endeavours, such as a mural program with local high school arts students. Dawn Chaplin, Chief Administrative Officer with the Town of Torbay, says there will very likely be other opportunities for artists to partner with the town in the future.

“(The council) have a heritage plan, they have a beautification plan, tourism plan, recreation plan – and we’re trying to tie them all together to really promote our history and our heritage,” she says.

Chaplin says they are also looking forward to having Rowe partner with their recreation department to lead some upcoming painting classes with youth and other residents. In the meantime, she’s admiring Rowe’s colourful roadside canvases and daydreaming about warmer and sunnier days ahead.

“It’s unfortunate we only have a limited number, because it’s a project that you can really keep building upon. It beautifies a necessary piece of infrastructure that’s required for the traffic lights…it really does lighten up the community,” she says.

“You see the lupins on the (traffic box) out by the bypass road, it’s so lovely. It reminds us of what’s to come once we get out of winter.”