More and more utility boxes are being transformed into colorful displays of art on our streets.
Southern California has become a hotspot for utility box mural programs with districts like Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale, Long Beach, etc. all having initiated programs in their area. Here at UCLA, we are also starting our own project for “Our Environment, Our Health.”
There are 14 traffic signal cabinets all around campus that are currently a part of our built environment, but essentially invisible. It is important to acknowledge the products of our human impact, whether it is good or bad. This project takes initiative to bring attention to these mundane traffic signal cabinets to promote awareness of climate change, health, and well-being.
It is easy to take the space we occupy throughout our daily routine for granted. Sometimes we are too busy to pay attention to what surrounds us, and the more familiar we are with our environment, the less we notice it. Through introducing public art to our built environment, this project aims to activate both the space and our attention.
Many utility boxes are painted but for this project, the designs will be printed onto vinyl as it is more durable than paint. Vinyl is more resistant to UV rays and has lower risks of chipping or scratching than paint, providing a longer shelf life for the art it displays. Additionally, using vinyl gives more options for artists who use different mediums such as photography, graphic design, and new media.
Cities like Sacramento have chosen vinyl over paint, taking advantage of the lower cost to cover more utility boxes in the area. Their first box was completed in January 2014, marking the start to fulfilling their goal of beautifying the city and promoting local artists.
In recent years, other SoCal cities have initiated their own programs calling for artists to decorate the unnoticed utility boxes. Councilmember David Ryu developed the project for District 4 in November 2017 with the same objective as Sacramento.
These calls are attractive for local artists because these utility boxes provide accessibility and visibility to a large audience. The boxes are a canvas for whatever message they want to convey and it will reach the public. Some artists portray a personal motif relevant to the area of the box they decorate and others focus on the aesthetic of their design. This project provides artistic freedom for local artists as well as an attractive budget from $750 to $1000 per box depending on the program, covering supplies and a stipend for the artist.
All of these aspects make the utility box program highly attractive for artists and positive for the public who get to enjoy the refreshed environment. For our BEWell program, selected artists will receive a $75 gift card and the pride of seeing your work in the environment you occupy every day. Submissions are due March 26, 2020!
Lara Washington is a second-year Communications major at UCLA. In addition to blogging for the BEWell pod, Lara is a co-chair for E3’s Earth Month and a member of UCLA Radio’s marketing and digital press department.