Util­ity boxes art pro­gram en­ters fi­nal year, draws big turnout

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - By Grace Hase

Camp­bell is al­most done paint­ing the town, its util­ity boxes, that is.

Lo­cal artists will turn up to paint util­ity boxes on six street cor­ners this sum­mer as part of the fifth — and pos­si­bly fi­nal — phase of the city’s Art Out­side the Box pro­gram. Started in 2015 by the city’s Civic Im­prove­ment Com­mis­sion, with the help of the Camp­bell Artist’s Guild, the pro­gram aims to beau­tify the city and dis­play the work of lo­cal artists.

“Many of the artists have day jobs, but we wanted to give (them) the op­por­tu­nity to show their work,” com­mis­sioner and pro­gram founder Alan Zisser said. “The other main goal was to im­prove the street scape. … We cleaned up the boxes and we’ve had very lit­tle is­sue with any­body tag­ging them.”

Since the pro­gram launched a few years ago, Zisser said there have been only three in­stances in which some­one has tried to de­face a painted util­ity box.

“It re­ally is nice to walk around town and see art­work in­stead of graf­fiti,” for­mer com­mis­sioner Ann Herosy said. “They’re these bright spots of art, just un­ex­pected around town.”

But while the pro­gram has be­come a Camp­bell sum­mer sta­ple, 2018may be its fi­nal year. At the com­mis­sion’s June 14 meet­ing, they de­cided not to place the pro­gram on next year’s work plan.

“The prob­lem is we’re run­ning out of boxes,” Zisser said.

When the sum­mer is over, the to­tal num­ber of painted boxes in the city will rise to 35. While the city may be run­ning low on un­painted boxes on the main thor­ough­fares, Zisser said the com­mis­sion may re­visit the idea in the fu­ture for neigh­bor­hoods in­ter­ested in hav­ing a box painted.

Res­i­dents look­ing to track down the new ad­di­tions can find two of the com­pleted works of art on dis­play at the cor­ners of East Hamil­ton Av­enue and April Way, and the VTA Sta­tion at Rail­way Av­enue.

The East Hamil­ton Av­enue box, which was painted by Greg Che­ung, sports a quail sit­ting atop a brick wall. Near the VTA Sta­tion at Rail­way Av­enue, Jen­nifer Bai­ley, an art stu­dent at San Jose State Univer­sity, cap­tured the essence of Camp­bell with farm­ers mar­ket pro­duce.

This year’s only re­turn­ing artist is Irene Bron­ner, a preschool art teacher who has painted a box ev­ery year since the pro­gram’s launch. She’s painted an­i­mal boxes around town in­clud­ing the chee­tah box near the Prune­yard and the sea life box on Winch­ester Boule­vard and Ha­cienda Av­enue. This time, she said she’s go­ing with chick­ens.

“I was try­ing to bring out some­thing green that peo­ple ( have) in their homes,” Bron­ner said. “(Peo­ple) have chicken coops, they’re try­ing to eat bet­ter, so I used the chicken idea and have a fox look­ing at them from an­other box.”

Bron­ner has painted util­ity boxes in other cities, but says that Camp­bell has the best pro­gram by far.

“I love to give back and I love the com­mu­nity,” she said. “I love when peo­ple come by and talk to me. It’s a way for me to con­nect with peo­ple and show them what I can do.”

Bron­ner’s box, as well as An­gelo Lopez’s East Hamil­ton Av­enue box, is near­ing com­ple­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Zisser, Lopez’s box will fea­ture car­toon char­ac­ters in a dog and cat chase.

Res­i­dents in­ter­ested in see­ing artists in ac­tion should keep their eyes on Union and McGlincy av­enues and West Hamil­ton Av­enue and Phoenix Drive. Zisser said to ex­pect a wa­ter tower and wind­mills from Gabriel Restrepo on Union Av­enue, and mu­si­cal in­stru­ments from Mon­ica She­hata on West Hamil­ton Av­enue.

But while the project that Zisser has ded­i­cated his time to over the past few years may be com­ing to an end, he said he’s proud of what all the vol­un­teer artists have ac­com­plished.

The pro­gram comes at no cost to the city; sup­plies, ad­ver­tis­ing ma­te­ri­als and artists’ hon­o­rar­i­ums are all funded by do­na­tions.

“Ev­ery sin­gle day I see three or four boxes,” he said. “It just re­in­forces the fact we ac­com­plished that. I know all the peo­ple in­volved in that re­ally get a kick out of the fact that they par­tic­i­pated in mak­ing it hap­pen.”

For a map of all the painted lo­ca­tions, go to city­of­camp­bell.com/618/ Art- Out­side-the-Box.

GRACE HASE

A team of vol­un­teers pre­pare util­ity boxes in Camp­bell for artists to paint them this sum­mer. The pro­gram to beau­tify Camp­bell’s bland util­ity boxes will likely end this year, as most all of the boxes are now painted.

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