In Sunnyvale, City-owned utility boxes are displaying the work of selected artists who painted from the pigment of their imagination.
The City of Sunnyvale is overseeing “The Great Box Cover-Up,” a three-phase art project, of which the first two phases have been completed.
“We have a list of 39 City-owned utility boxes to work from throughout all corners of the city,” said Kristin Dance, the City of Sunnyvale’s Public Art Coordinator. “The first phase was the painting of 12 utility boxes in or near downtown Sunnyvale. The boxes are close in vicinity to each other. We did those paintings during the spring of 2022.
“During Phase Two, artists worked on the remaining 16 utility boxes in Sunnyvale that were available to us,” Dance continued. “For Phase Three, we reserved 11 utility boxes that are closest to the four high schools that service Sunnyvale. We are trying to get high school students to paint these boxes in the spring of 2024.”
During Phase One, Skye Becker-Yamakawa, a Sunnyvale-based Artist, painted three utility boxes at McKinley Ave. in front of Whole Foods and the AMC Theater.
“I was focusing on bringing something from nature into an urban space,” Becker-Yamakawa said. “I tried to capture the cooler tones with the blue background. I painted roses and peonies. I painted a large bee. I had the bee there because it has a crucial role in our environment. On the other side of the boxes were butterflies. The butterflies I painted are native to Sunnyvale and Northern California.
“The side that faces Whole Foods features a green parrot made of flower petals,” Becker-Yamakawa continued. “This green parrot represents the green parrots that live in Sunnyvale. These wild green parrots live mostly in Las Palmas Park. But once, a ton of these parrots came into my neighbor’s house and were eating the berries in her yard.”
After painting the utility boxes, Becker-Yamakawa was prepared for another big project she took on- painting a fiberglass heart for “Hearts in San Francisco” to benefit the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation.
During Phase Two of the box painting project, Kristen Calderon, an Artist from San Ramon, painted two utility boxes along Mathilda Avenue at Innovation Way in Moffett Park.
“My niece, who grew up in Sunnyvale, sent me a link to a call for artists to paint utility boxes,” Calderon said of how she learned of this opportunity. “With this project, I wanted to paint something bright and eye-catching, to bring a little bit of life into that corner and to share some history as well.”
Both utility boxes Calderon painted contain landscapes, blue skies, orchards and fruit trees.
“The bigger box has three different historic aircrafts to highlight the aerospace industry in Sunnyvale,” Calderon continued. “The smaller box has a superimposed circuitry pattern over the landscape to represent the tech industry in the area. I wanted especially to make sure there’s a pear tree on the box. My great-grandparents had a pear orchard in Silicon Valley.”
The City of Sunnyvale will post a map on the City’s web site with the 28 completed boxes’ locations.