On my way home from teaching my Nia class in San Jose on a bright and beautiful Wednesday morning, I noticed a man at a utility box. I had seen him out of the corner of my eye so it did not register what he was doing until I was passed the box. So I looked at him in my review mirror. I pulled over to the side of the road to be able to really look to see if he was doing what I thought he was doing. Then I decided to back my car up, park, and get out to see. It just so happened that the day before I was on my way to the Roosevelt Community Center, and I took a wrong turn and found myself driving around not sure exactly how to get where I wanted to be and I noticed a set of utility boxes. Do you ever notice utility boxes? Probably not, huh? They are one of those things that are not that attractive so we learn to ignore them. Well, while I was driving around being lost, I noticed them. There was one that was painted with a bunch of flowers and then the one right next to it looked like a big red rose. I thought, “Wow! That is so cool.” So as I was driving home from Nia and I saw a man painting a utility box, I wanted to see what it was all about.
We talked briefly, he said it was a project in the City of San Jose. They are lumping it in as an “anti-graffiti” project, but I like to just think of it as disguising something not attractive AND adding beauty at the same time. The artist, Scott Willis, was sitting on the grass by the box painting it. He handed me a fact sheet. I skimmed it and tried to hand it back and he said I could keep it. (YAY!) Because now I have the facts to share with you.
The project is “Art Box Project SJ”. The project goals are to integrate art into San Jose neighborhoods, grow the project throughout San Jose, and “encourage community participation by engaging neighbors, neighborhood associations, and local artists by sponsoring boxes and paying artists a small stipend for their work.”
Additional information on the fact sheet says the “project was inspired by photos of utility boxes with murals painted on them, taken by self proclaimed ”Anit-Man-About-Town” and world traveler Gary Singh (a local Metro News columnist). It’s being pushed along by Tina Morrill; an idealist [who] believes anything is possible.”
I know San Jose isn’t the first city to do this but I am excited to see these boxes around. In fact the Fact Sheet states, “According to the Contra Costa Times, Hayward has found their art on utility boxes has reduced graffiti problems by 97%”. Wow. Ninety-seven percent.
In addition to the sponsors paying the artists’ stipend they can pay an additional amount to have the box sprayed with an “anti-graffiti coating”.
There are criteria for both the box locations and the art, but that is to be expected and the criteria even makes sense, such as the utility box can’t be on the replacement list. Nice that they don’t want an artist to spend time beautifying it just so it can be replaced. And the are must be tasteful, respectful, and not political, commercial, or religious.
While the artist do get paid a small amount I am hoping that it will be advertising for them. I mean, if you see really compelling work on a utility box maybe it could lead to other things for the artist!
The rose I saw the other day just keeps jumping into my head, it was so gorgeous. The art I saw on Wednesday was unfinished, I interrupted the artist. But since it is a box I pass at least twice a week on my way home from my Nia classes in Willow Glen, I will see the work in progress and post pictures upon its completion. For now you get to see the artist and his work in progress. I am relating this to health and wellness because beauty causes a good feeling. It is nice to see the plain utility boxes beautified.
Here is the Facebook page for it (click here).
So what do you think of this project? Do you have something like it in your city? Would you like to have something like it in your city?