Rosemary Regalbuto knows if you want to get something done, sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.
So more than two years after the City Council approved a program to paint utility boxes on Montana Avenue with local art, Regalbuto was out there herself with a can of primer and a brush.
“I got paint all over me to prove it,” Regalbuto said in a phone interview with the Daily Press. “I now have paint clothes for when I go out there and do it again.”
That rainy day in February, Regalbuto remained on Montana Avenue when the actual artist, Marcel Blanco, took over. The Los Angeles artist took inspiration from the artwork of three Santa Monica students and translated their images onto utility boxes along Montana at Lincoln Boulevard, 14th Street and 17th Street.
The students who inspired the work are Tim Boboshin (Lincoln Middle School), Phoenix Plischke (Lincoln Middle School), and Jingwen Ni (Santa Monica High School. The students were selected as the winners of a Buy Local poster contest.
As Blanco translated their images of a Farris wheel, a surfboard and a tree onto the boxes, Regalbuto was ecstatic to overhear onlookers excited about the public art popping up on their street.
“Everybody was stopping by and saying what a nice addition they are,” Regalbuto said. “And to make the street prettier, what could be better?”
Regalbuto, who ran Meals on Wheels for almost three decades before retiring in 2013, believes public art brings the community together and creates a welcoming atmosphere on Montana.
“I’ve love street art and I think it makes people smile and feel good,” Regalbuto said.
But the Rotarian had no idea how long it would take to make the project a reality. Besides getting City approval, the project needed funding and then coordination with multiple departments. Another project leader, Evan Meyer with Beautify Earth, can relate to the frustration. Seven utility boxes approved for artwork on Lincoln Boulevard at the same 2015 meeting were finally finished late last year.
“Cities are cities and we have to get through the basic city hurdles – Santa Monica has a lot of them,” Meyer said. He’s hopeful with enough community support City departments can streamline the approval process and help give more utility boxes a facelift throughout the City.
“This is something that could be done in a week,” Meyer said. “You approve the art. You let someone paint it. You move on.”
More boxes are in the pipeline for painting, including utility boxes Pico Boulevard and Ocean Park Boulevard. The projects were approved as part of a citywide pilot to figure out the most efficient and cost-effective way to commission the work. Compared to the large murals Beautify Earth usually creates, the boxes are a much smaller canvass. However, Meyer says size doesn’t diminish the impact.
“Paint has soul,” Meyer said. “The feeling you’ve created, you put your hands on a structure that made a change in the community”