The painter’s canvas is unique to be sure: the four sides of a rectangular, roadside electrical utility box somewhere in Santa Clara. The artistic challenge is to turn a roadside eyesore into an eye-catching commentary about the historical and evolving community of Santa Clara.
Artists are encouraged to have their design reflect what’s happening in the area in which the utility box is located. Michelle Castro has just created such a design for a utility box on Great America Parkway across from Levi’s Stadium, titling it “Our Ladies of Perpetual Football.”
Castro’s design application process was a bit more complicated than just painting. She bought a cheerleading outfit and had friends pose wearing the outfit for photos that were made into large decals. She then glued a different decal to each side of the utility box and hand painted the rest of her design.
A utility box that Castro painted a couple years ago is located on Homestead Road near Lawrence Expressway at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center campus. It’s a giant basket of colorful flowers to cheer all the patients and visitors to the medical facility.
“Instead of a gray box, now people can look at somebody’s inspiration,” says Castro. “It changes the look of everything because it’s outdoor art.”
Only five out of more than a hundred utility boxes scattered throughout the city have been painted as part of the Utility Box Art Project sponsored by the City of Santa Clara and its Cultural Commission.
“This is an excellent opportunity for local and regional artists,” says Bunny Lockwood, Cultural Commission chair, going on to list the benefits to the community of having the public outdoor art.
“It’s been successful throughout the nation as an anti-graffiti measure. It really helps to beautify the neighborhoods. It’s a conversation piece,” says Lockwood.
The creative art design should tell a piece of the story of Santa Clara. A rendering of the proposed design must be submitted to and approved by the Cultural Commission. In 2013, Girl Scout Troop 60728 painted the utility box at the intersection of Scott Blvd. and Homestead Rd. It depicts orchards, an old farmhouse, the Mission and Levi’s stadium.
The Rhythm of Santa Clara, as visualized by artist Claudia, brightens the utility box at the intersection of Pruneridge and Saratoga Avenues. A fifth painted utility box is located at the Mission City Center for the Performing Arts on Monroe St. at Calabazas Ave., by Wilcox High School. Two additional design proposals have recently been approved.
Utility box artists don’t have to live in Santa Clara. Materials are provided by the City, and artists receive a small stipend at completion of the project. This is an on-going art project without a deadline (contrary to the January deadline now listed in the application packet).
“The Utility Box Art Project gives artists a chance to get noticed and recognized,” says Castro. “We really need to get going on this project.”
Detailed information and an application can be found on the City’s website: www.santaclaraca.gov/government/board-commissions/cultural-commission. Click on the link located just above the pictures of the commissioners: www.santaclaraca.gov/home/showdocument?id=15787. For questions, contact the City Manager’s office: (408) 615-2210 or email the commission: email@example.com.