Capitol's utility boxes to get vinyl makeovers

A ProWraps employee, right, applies a reprinted piece by aritst Ianna Frisby to a “test” utility box near Drexel University in April. Many more such installations will appear around the Capitol starting July 21. [Photo courtesy of CADA Apartments’ Facebook page.]

In a bid to make boring, old utility boxes too pretty to deface, Sacramento city officials on Tuesday armed 20 local artists with brushes and set them loose on downtown.

Well, sort of. More accurately, the city’s Capitol Box Art Project will see the transfer of these artists’ designs—28 in all—onto durable vinyl adhered to more than two- dozen utility boxes around the Capitol.

“It’s going to make a big visual impact. Trust me,” promised Shelly Willis, executive director of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, which convened a panel to select artists from a pool of more than 70 applicants.

Willis said the project was spearheaded by the Capitol Area Development Authority, which is funding and managing the installations, as well as maintaining the pieces once they’re applied to the boxes. CADA paid artists a $500 “honorarium” for each selected piece, for which they retain copyright, Willis explained. The city will own the actual vinyl on which the designs are transferred and have the right to use the images in promotional materials.

The stated goals of the project are to, in part, create a more vibrant art scene and deter graffiti, a city staff report says. Willis also credited the project with drawing traditionally 2-D artists into the public sphere and exposing people who might not frequent galleries to their talents.

Eight local artists will have multiple designs on utility boxes—Laura Caron, Erik Hosino, Janine Maparunga, Jim Piskoti, Sam Sellers, Melissa Uroff, Bryan Valenzuela and Kerri Warner. The artists’ styles include photo-realistic graphic illustration, animation-influenced manga and more abstract pieces. “They’re all very thoughtful,” Willis said.

The Sacramento City Council approved the project during a procedural vote on Tuesday.

Willis said the artwork would start appearing next week between Seventh and 17th streets and L and S streets, transforming utility boxes that were designed to disappear in an urban environment into pop-art installations. “It’s kind of startling, in a way,” she said.

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