File photo

Utility boxes in the Lincoln, Montana and Ocean Park areas are going to get an exterior upgrade thanks to a pilot program that brings local art to the once-drab facilities.

Council approved a program in November 2015 to cover civic utility boxes in local art. Staff have provided an informational update to City Hall on the status of the program and plans for future expansion.

“Increasingly, utilitarian objects, such as utility boxes, are viewed as canvases that have the potential to enhance the visual environment, while also spotlighting artists from the city and region,” said the report. “Utility box art also has the added benefit of encouraging potential new partnerships between City departments, local businesses, neighborhood organizations and artists. As the City of Santa Monica seeks to beautify its environment through creative placemaking, incorporating artwork into City-owned utility boxes is a cost effective way to further this goal.”

In 2015 council recommended staff work on creating guidelines for a pilot program. Working with the local mural painting organization, Beautify Earth, boxes will be covered on Lincoln Boulevard and Montana Avenue.

The City and Beautify Earth staff worked with students from Olympic High school to develop designs for intersections on Lincoln between Marine Street and Olympic Boulevard. Those designs are being digitally enhanced and prepared for reproduction. The work will be printed on graffiti-resistant vinyl and installation will begin this summer. Additional wraps will be installed in the coming months as funds allow with each wrap costing about $750. The wraps are being paid for by City funding and local business and neighborhood group sponsorship.

On Montana, staff are pursuing a different approach. Student art is being painted directly onto utility boxes between 7th and17th streets. The work will be managed in partnership with Beautify Earth, local artists and the featured student artist. The boxes will then be covered with an anti-graffiti coating.

Staff will compare the Lincoln and Montana boxes to determine which method is most effective for future expansion.

According to staff, the Montana Avenue Merchants Association (MAMA) “will pay an estimated $1,000 for the installation of each box (artist, paint and materials), and they will be responsible for any maintenance needed during the temporary (1-2 year) lifespan of each design, which will be outlined in an agreement between the City and MAMA.”

A coalition of city and non-profit organizations are working on a pilot program for Ocean Park Boulevard for selecting artists and installing art on up to seven city-owned utility boxes between Lincoln Boulevard and Ocean Avenue.

Organizers will issue a call for artists this summer targeting anyone in Los Angeles County. Boxes could be covered by the end of the year pending approval from a selection panel and the city’s Public Art Committee.

Staff hope to fund the project with private sponsorships and organizers are working on sponsorship plans for individual businesses and merchant associations. Staff have identified Pico Boulevard, Main Street and Downtown Santa Monica as potential sites for future projects. 

In addition to municipal utility boxes, City Hall is exploring expanding the program to privately owned boxes.

Additional reports will be written once the three pilot programs have finished and staff will revise the program to account for lessons learned this year.

Read the report online at www.smgov.net/Departments/council/infoitems.aspx.

editor@www.smdp.com