The Utility Box Program started in 2010 as a pilot project initiated by The City of Calgary Roads. Initially conceived as a highly successful graffiti abatement measure, widespread popularity enabled the program to grow and become permanent in 2011. We are now expanding the opportunity to include community partners and engage more artists and citizens. Since 2010, over 140 utility box public artworks have been created by local artists throughout Calgary.
The program is designed to use the funding for regular lifecycle maintenance of City assets in a creative way. Working with student artists, professional artists and community groups, the program allows for these street-level artworks to add vibrancy to our cityscape, while creating a sense of place and identity for communities. These public artworks are not intended to be permanent but a temporary canvas through which artists and community members can express themselves and their identity.
A project team, made up of representatives from five different City departments, works together to set the goals and priority locations for the program annually. Additionally, when specific community members would like to have a box that is not part of the priority list painted, they can fill out an application form to have the box painted. Painting a box that is not currently on the priority list requires a fee for service, and the requestor is able to select the artist from the Utility Box Program roster.
All artists who create an artwork for a publically owned asset must be hired through standard City hiring procedures and are paid in accordance with the scope of the assigned project. Artists are selected by a seven-person jury and all designs must be pre-approved by the project team prior to installation. In order to develop designs, artists work with the project team and the community stakeholders to:
- Understand the community and its identifying features, values and character;
- Involve the community, in some way, in the development of the artwork; and
- Interpret these elements into a public artwork for the utility box assigned.
Additionally, when designing the artwork, artists are encouraged to think of the context of the site and surrounding area:
- Designs must not contain any representations of traffic lights, signs or signals.
- Designs cannot contain advertisement or promotion for any business, product or viewpoint.
- Designs must be created in a manner that will deter graffiti vandalism (ie: little negative space).
- Designs may not include any breach of intellectual property, trademarks, brands, images of illegal activity or involve the attachment of any object(s) to the box.
- Consideration should be given to the fact that the finished artwork will be in the public domain and therefore may be vandalized.
- Artists should understand that the finished works will be on functioning equipment that will need repair or replacing at some point in time. Artists must accept the risk that their artwork may be damaged or removed at any time after completion.
- Artwork is temporary and will not necessarily remain on the utility box for the lifespan of the box.
Utility Box Mentorship Program - 2016
In collaboration with Alberta Printmakers, we developed an artist mentorship program to explore new possibilities for the Utility Box Program. This allowed local artists to expand their skills, under the guidance of an established artist, and potentially create their own public art projects in the future.
Twelve selected mentees took part in a six-week opportunity with lead artist Eveline Kolijn. They participated in a Public Art Project on the development and execution of artwork on 12 utility boxes on the west side of the Fifth and Sixth Avenue SW corridors. The mentees were Sylvia Arthur, Scott Baird, Samantha Charette, Claire Coutts, Graeme Dearden, Kathryn Dutchak, Jacqueline Huskisson, Mark Eadie, Marzieh Mosavarzadeh, Kaylin Obst, Sally Reesman and Helen Young.
For more information on this project, visit www.albertaprintmakers.com/utilitybox.
Information for Artists
In 2015 artists for the Utility Box Program were chosen via a pre-selected roster. Following the success of the roster, we have created an umbrella initiative called Painted City, which covers any program or individual request where an artist applies two-dimensional artworks to the surfaces of City-owned assets. These assets include utility boxes, banners, murals, decals, mosaics, photography and other digital artworks. Artist for the Utility Box program (with the exception of the Utility Box Mentorship) will be chosen through the Painted City roster.
Frequently Asked Questions
The City of Calgary’s Utility Box Program is an extremely popular community-based art program in partnership between Roads, Public Art and local communities. Funded by Roads, the program allows local artists to create original artworks on designated traffic signal boxes. There are a limited number of boxes that can be done each year due to the budget and boxes are selected based on lifecycle priority basis.
Contact Public Art at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the Utility Box Program.