Electrical Utility Boxes as Public Art

Around the nation, public works departments, downtown associations and neighborhoods have focused on sidewalk electrical utility boxes as public art sites.  Hand painting appears in the neighborhoods and smaller cities, while printed vinyl wraps are preferred by more urban downtowns.

Sam Rodiguez, San Jose

Sam Rodiguez, San Jose

Overall

  • Preparing the box itself by removing rust and other imperfections is essential.
  • Hand painting has a slight edge on durability, but both can last up to five years depending on the quality of the paints, inks and UV protection.   Wraps are rated for only 3 years.
  • Design for pedestrian viewing seems to be prioritized over bold graphic images for automobiles. Sam Rodriguez’s box is very rare.

Wraps

  • Advantage on quality control as most artists are not experienced painting on metal.
  • Artists working in almost any media can participate through the photographic image of the original artwork.
  • Children, students and amateurs artworks can be incorporated by professional graphic designers.
  • Removal of graffiti paint and markers is simple.  Some stickers and ballpoint pens can be impossible without damaging the vinyl.
  • Some public works department report that the vinyl can interfere with open the cabinet doors.
  • Apparently, the wraps like warm weather.
  • Requires a graphic designer to complete the final layout.
  • Solves insurance issues as the sign company carries the proper insurance.
  • Hint:  Ask for a replacement wrap in the original bid.
  • Surprise:  No real reports of damage with a knife, etc.

Hand Painting

  • Good durability in all climates with UV protection
  • In the project budget, very high percentage goes directly to the artists.
  • The act of painting in the street becomes an event.
  • Better recognition by the general public as art and not advertising.
  • Can result in poor quality with painting by students or some artists without experience painting on metal.
  • Need to resolve insurance for multiple artists painting in the streets.
  • With expensive anti-graffiti coating, paint and markers can be removed

 

San Jose and Sacramento

An excellent comparison of hand painting and wraps.

San Jose Website:  http://bit.ly/sanjoseboxes

Sacramento Website:  http://capitolboxart.com/


 

Hand Painting

San Jose, Painting as an event.

San Jose, Painting as an event.

San Jose, Prepping the Box

San Jose, Prepping the Box

San Jose, Lacey Bryant painting

San Jose, Lacey Bryant painting

San Jose, Clear Coat

San Jose, Clear Coat

San Jose, Add the Sign

San Jose, Add the Sign


 

Wraps

Sacramento, Sandy Hernandez, Wrap Layout

Sacramento, Sandy Hernandez, Wrap Layout

Sacramento, Apply Wrap

Sacramento, Apply Wrap

Sacramento, Cut for Handle

Sacramento, Cut for Handle

Sacramento, Secure Edges & Clean

Sacramento, Secure Edges & Clean

Sacramento

Sacramento


 

Gallery of Images

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Comments

  1. Susan Pontious says

    It would be good to know the relative budgets of these projects, i.e. the cost of hand painting vs. vinyl wrap.

    • says

      Susan, I pricing the wraps in Florida now. Hand-painting is merely whatever you want to pay the artists. The fees start around $200 and go up. Glenn

  2. Todd Leon says

    The wraps in Sacramento cost about $500.00 for printing and install. Artists were paid $500.00. Whether painting or applied through vinyl sticker, what you pay an artist depends on the quality you want out of the project. The Sacramento project firmly believed in paying professional artists for their work. A similar project for an electrical box in Sacramento cost a few thousand to pay the artist to paint her work over a two or three day period. The budget for Sacramento was $35,000 for 29 boxes. This included permits, payment to our arts commission for running the artist selection process, and some maintenance costs once the art was applied. What is not included was the time the in house graphic artist spent with the boxt art artist for the preperation of the digital files. The Graphic Artist spent on average about 90 minutes on each piece.