Utility box

In 2016, local artist Aaron Lee Harris designed these decorations for utility boxes in Laguna.

In 2016, five homely utility box sites received makeovers from local artists in Elk Grove.

Aaron Lee Harris was a student at California State University, Sacramento when he painted portraits of women on utility boxes in Old Town Elk Grove and outside the BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse in Laguna.

“It was just great to share some of my art in a public space,” Harris told the Citizen during a recent interview.

This art was a part of a city beautification program that invited artists to submit designs for approval by the city of Elk Grove’s Arts Commission. Harris was excited to enter his ideas when he heard about the call for submissions.

“Maybe it’s an inspiration for (viewers) to be creative on top of whatever it is, whether it’s writing, photography, or cooking,” Harris said about his art’s impact on viewers.  

The city and the Arts Commission are once again calling for Sacramento County-based artists to propose designs that will beautify utility boxes.

They request designs for the box that’s near the northwest corner of Elk Grove and Franklin boulevards in Laguna, and the box that’s at the southwest corner of Bruceville Road and Whitelock Parkway in the Madeira area.

 “It is an effort to brighten the dull utility boxes across the city and put a brand on our lifestyle,” Art Commission Chair Nan Mahon said.

New to the project is the medium of a “wrap” that will be placed on a utility box. Each wrap will display the artwork and can be quickly reprinted. Lana Yoshimura, the arts commission’s city liaison, explained that the wrap is an alternative to painting designs on the utility boxes since paintings are vulnerable to weather and potential graffiti.

“Most cities use a wrap instead of hand-painting,” she said. “It’s kind of an industry standard now.”

As for the new request for submissions, Yoshimura said that high school and college students can propose images for the utility boxes. She said that images can be drawings, photographs, or anything that can be displayed on a wrap.

“This is a way for emerging artists or younger artists to contribute to the city’s art and get their foot in the door,” Yoshimura said.

Submissions will be reviewed by arts commissioners who will then nominate their choices for Elk Grove City Council approval. Yoshimura said that her staff hopes to receive council approval in February and then install the art next spring.

Harris’s advice for utility box artists is to keep their designs and also their submitted paperwork clean.

“Use the highest amount of craftsmanship, and that means very clean,” he said. “(Be) as clean as you can possibly be.”

Mahon said that her commission is also discussing other public art projects such as bicycle racks, murals, and even art installed along trails.

Proposals are due by 4 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 17. Artists can access the proposal documents for the utility box beautification program by visiting the city’s website, www.ElkGroveCity.org.