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Thank you Oakland Park for keeping up with times and becoming an art friendly city by turning mysterious infrastructure into public art. Chances are that as you drive around town you probably never noticed them until they became defaced with posts.
Utility boxes sit on street corners and sidewalks, holding all the valuable equipment that keeps our city clicking along: traffic-light control mechanisms, cable and phone connections, streetlight equipment, heat equipment for bus shelters, flood-control pumps, light-rail switches, electric transformers, and some things that I’m sure I don’t know about. Some utility boxes are owned by the city, others by FDOT, Utility; but no matter the owner, there are thousands of them scattered through the city, sitting like frozen droids, the ultimate mysterious infrastructure.
In an effort to beautify our town, the City of Oakland Park Commission approved the installation of artistic wraps on selected utility boxes at different locations throughout our community. The City published a Call to Artist to select the artist and designs to be used in this project. This project enhances the public realm by adding local artists’ work to surfaces that were frequent targets of vandalism.
The first phase of the Utility Box Wrap project featured native Florida flora and fauna artwork. The goal of Oakland Park’s Public Art Program is to wrap approximately 54 utility boxes located throughout the city. The first round of utility boxes wrapped in the downtown area are creations of local artist Mimi Botscheller. In addition the city commissioned artists Frank Polanco, James Karpinen, Paul Krashefski, Lynn Marks, Kathy Kafka, Georgeta Fondos and Scott Kennedy.
Compared to other public art programs like murals or youth engagement aimed at reducing graffiti, The utility box art is one of the most efficient ways to control vandalism. Plus, if well curated, the streetscape can come to life with new public art on an otherwise invisible canvas.
With the ability to ply an adhesive vinyl to just about anything out there in the world we can now reproduce any electronic image, any fun and interesting artistic designs, onto the wrap itself. Now it can be not just painted, but many more artistic mediums can be transferred: photos, prints, collages.
The public-space of utility boxes is an unexpected dynamic. What first appears to be the epitome of boring infrastructural blight, when given a little bit of artistic love, can become one of the small ways that people begin to make meaning in their neighborhood. The process to make this happened required for each artist to send a detailed application with a narrative of the art they submitted thru the Call to Artist posted in the city’s website. At a City Commissioners meeting, the artists were selected and later notified. Once notified the artist had to prepare and submit a scaled graphics of their selected artwork. This process also required a collective meeting with City officials, the graphic designer and printing company. All together the process took over year from start to finish.
Of course these images are to prevent vandalism. In most cases they proven they do that. Unfortunately we have found a significant amount of situations where the utility boxes have been used to post peoples personal agendas and in some cases defaced with graffitied. This is a complete disrespect to the artists, the city you live in as well as the City that made a financial investment to complete this project.
These Numerous acts of vandalism against our public art exhibits are known and some may have been done unintentionally. However, some of the damages consist of leaving scratches, stuck tape, magic marker and so on. Whenever you see this we urge you to call the City Public Works department as they should be able to remove it. Public Works 954-561-6275.
This map shows all the locations a Utility Box is located in the City of Oakland Park. To take a look at each an every one of them you may visit the link: Oakland Park Utility Boxes Map Tour. Here you will see more information such as the artists name that created the piece.
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