The city of San Luis Obispo’s art jury has rendered its verdict, recommending 11 new designs for the city’s utility box art program.
The art jury of 15 volunteers made the selections from more than 80 public submissions, pending final City Council approval on Oct. 18.
Six of the 11 utility boxes that will receive the artwork now are unadorned, while four have artwork on them but will be redone because part of the art was covered up. One painted box is being replaced. All of the boxes will be painted in November.
The proposals are the latest phase of an ongoing effort to beautify the otherwise drab utility structures in neighborhoods throughout the city.
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“These boxes really add more culture and art to the city in places you wouldn’t expect,” said oil and acrylic painter Elizabeth Hudson, whose black and purple design, “Jacaranda Deco,” adorns the box at Broad and Pismo streets. “It makes our city more interesting and unique.”
Designs for the untouched boxes include:
▪ “Sweet and Low” by Bret Brown at Foothill Boulevard, Chorro and Broad streets.
▪ “Robot” by Heidi Kruger at Broad Street and Orcutt Road.
▪ “Naturally Beautiful” by Laura Lozano at Johnson Avenue and Lizzie Street.
▪ “Once Upon a Dream” by Alister Dippner at Madonna Road and Oceanaire Drive
▪ “Celebrate SLO” by Nate Erin at Marsh and Higuera streets
▪ “SLO Many Cows” by Elena Aker at Patricia Drive and Foothill Boulevard
It’s art for everybody. What’s really nice is that when you’re painting, people will walk by and say ‘Thank you for making my daily walk with my dog more beautiful.’
Marcie Hawthorne, artist
The boxes that will be modified include:
▪ “Pismo” by Chris Pederson at Higuera Street and Madonna Road
▪ “Roots, Rocks, Right and Left” by Chris Pederson at Buchon and Broad streets
▪ “Signature Birds of San Luis Obispo County” by Marcie Hawthorne at South and Higuera streets
▪ “Jacaranda Deco” by Elizabeth Hudson at Broad and Pismo streets
“Love of Color” by Sara Burke has been recommended to decorate the utility box being replaced at Osos and Monterey streets. The image celebrates diversity, depicting smiling white and black women flanked by a rainbow.
Hudson would be painting for the first time in the program.
“I am a little nervous just to be out in the public with people watching my technique,” Hudson said. “I’ll be on a busy street corner with cars rushing by. It will be a new experience for me. It will be fun.”
The city is allocating $48,000 toward the work, paying artists $1,500 or $700 (depending on the size of the box) for their service and $200 for materials. The painters also receive $100 for completing the work, said Melissa Mudgett, San Luis Obispo’s public art program manager.
The Architectural Review Commission and Cultural Heritage Committee already voted unanimously in favor of the art jury’s picks. The city’s Parks and Recreation Commission will consider the recommended designs and box locations Wednesday.
“So far, the same designs, as recommended by the art jury, have all made it through — only two more hurdles to go,” Mudgett said.
I’ll be on a busy street corner with cars rushing by. It will be a new experience for me. It will be fun.
Elizabeth Hudson, painter
Hawthorne’s “Signature Birds of San Luis Obispo County” will be redone because the utility box was upgraded with a battery pack that covered part of her artwork.
“It’s art for everybody,” Hawthorne said. “What’s really nice is that when you’re painting, people will walk by and say, ‘Thank you for making my daily walk with my dog more beautiful.’ An older man told me that he walked a little farther than he used to every day so he could see the koi fish box by the Ah Louis store. He really identifies with it and told me ‘That’s my box.’ ”
11number of utility boxes prioritized by the city’s art jury for the next phase of the utility box art program
Pederson said a beach hike with a great view years ago inspired his “Pismo” artwork, and he enjoys the public nature of the project.
“Everyone was walking by me all day and talking to neighbors as well,” Pederson said. “That’s fun to be part of the neighborhood.”
More than 30 utility boxes already have been painted citywide in phases in 2010 and 2012. That artwork includes eye-catching koi fish, mariachis, steelhead trout and even a block of cheese.
An additional 26 utility boxes around the city will receive artwork in two phases over the next few years.