When I lived in Jacksonville, Florida, there used to be a rogue artist who would paint the utility boxes in my neighborhood. Everyone that I talked to absolutely loved this art. It was a brilliant way to beautify an otherwise ugly, grey box. But the city council absolutely hated it, to the point where they would have the art removed as quickly as possible, and I believe the artist was actually faced with legal consequences.
Jacksonville was an extremely conservative city at the time. (Not so much anymore, it seems. They voted blue in the presidential elections! Woo hoo!) They considered art to be very controversial. Oh, sure, the confederate statuary was just fine and dandy, but do not produce art that’s open to interpretation. Heavens no! Anarchy might ensue! So Jacksonville’s public art used to be thin on the ground. I was not at all upset to move west.
When I moved to Seattle in 2014, I was thrilled to discover that the art on utility boxes is actually part of a beautification project. Now I look forward to seeing what the various artists will come up with. I love that those dull grey boxes were viewed as an opportunity, not a scandal.
Since then, I’ve seen decorated utility boxes everywhere that I travel. It’s a delight, seeing how varied they are. It brings me joy. It’s like going to a museum from the safety of my car.
What follows are pictures of artistic utility boxes that are either in my neighborhood or the pictures were sent to me by Pokemon Go friends from around the world. Enjoy the creative freedom!
In the interests of full disclosure, most, if not all of the confederate statues in Jacksonville have been removed since I left, and good riddance. I was also told by a friend who lives there that they don’t decorate their utility boxes because it has something to do with the leasing of equipment from vendors. I have no idea. I just can’t imagine they couldn’t find a workaround for this when so many other cities do.
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