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Takin’ art to the streets

On sidewalks and corners throughout the Capitol area, CADA and the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission are takin’ art to the streets with the Capitol Box Art project.

Transformation story

More than 30 metal utility boxes that house traffic and light rail control equipment throughout the Capitol area have undergone makeovers that have transformed them from drab to decorative. This art-in-public-places project has helped reaffirm Sacramento as a community that values art, while giving exposure to established as well as developing locally based artists.

CADA initiated and funded the project in 2013 upon the encouragement of Todd Leon, CADA development director. He and Karen Ulep, CADA’s marketing and creative services manager, working in coordination with the Metropolitan Arts Commission and a committee that included artists, invited and reviewed proposals from artists. The Sacramento City Council reviewed and approved finished designs for placement on traffic utility boxes.

“We received submissions from more than 70 artists who work in various media, including painting, photography, collages, pen and ink, found objects, layered textiles, and digital-generated imagery,” Leon said. “To accommodate their differing styles, Karen created digital templates of the boxes and she transferred the art to the template. CADA selected a local company to print the artworks on vinyl wraps, which were fitted to the utility boxes. The vinyl wraps are relatively easy and inexpensive to install, and they’re durable.”

The first box, at the corner of 15th and P streets, was wrapped in January 2014. Others quickly followed. Subject matter ranges from thought-provoking social symbolism to intriguing abstract patterns of color and texture, from playful nostalgia to the beauty found in nature. Some are satirical, some are whimsical, and all are colorful. Over time, they may be refreshed with new imagery.

“We set five goals for the Capitol Box Art project,” Leon said. “We wanted to create an avenue for art in the public realm, we wanted to add beauty to the streets in our neighborhood, we wanted to discourage graffiti on public property, we wanted to create a sense of pride for Sacramento artists, and we wanted to inspire other neighborhoods and other communities to do similar projects.”

The Capitol Box Art project has done all that.

“It has been transformative, converting ordinary gray utility boxes into sources of inspiration and enjoyment. We commonly see people taking selfies with them,” Leon said. “That’s a clear indication that the box art is cool.”