Four utility boxes in Los Gatos will be decorated this summer with new designs by local artists that not only promote environmentalism and sustainability, but also diversity, equity and inclusion.
The seven-year-old Utility Box art program under the auspices of the Los Gatos Department of Parks and Public Works typically focuses on designs with environmental themes. But this year, the ministry is shining a light on societal issues, said environmental program specialist Marina Chislett.
“It’s a new element that is really important for the city,” added Chislett. “We’re really taking steps to become a more inclusive community, so having that wired into our artistic messaging is really important.”
Last year, swastika graffiti was found on the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center in Los Gatos during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, and several council meetings were disrupted by a group that chastised the critical theory of race, Black Lives Matter and members of the LGBT community. .
The Utility Box Art program began in 2015 with the goal of sprucing up city streets and deterring vandalism. The four new models will be added to nearly 30 boxes already decorated in the city.
Chislett said other Bay Area cities have started similar programs to deter vandalism and graffiti, and Los Gatos saw it as a way to promote environmental stewardship while beautifying the city.
“Los Gatos are good enough not to have (vandalism) as a huge huge problem; our main focus was just beautification and messages that you would see in other cities,” Chislett said.
Nominations opened earlier this month and the chosen designs will be converted to vinyl wrap and applied to utility boxes at various locations around the city.
Artists can submit their creations for the Utility Box Art Program by May 6 at 5 p.m., and each selected artist will receive a $500 stipend. Chislett said the program typically receives between 20 and 70 applications.
Winning designs will be announced in May or June, and the artwork will be converted to vinyl wrap and installed in June on utility boxes at Los Gatos Boulevard and Capri, Los Gatos Boulevard and Chirco, Royce Avenue near Forbes MIll and Roberts Road and Industrial.
The Department of Parks and Public Works applied for a grant from Valley Water, which, if granted, would decorate four additional boxes. Chislett said the department should have an answer within the next few months.
Chislett said one of her favorite decorated utility boxes in Los Gatos is the box on Santa Cruz and Nino Boulevard that was designed by a local Girl Scout troop.
“It was really cute because they volunteered and we worked with them and gave them a stipend, and all contributed to this design which was created in vinyl wrap,” Chislett said.