On the city streets of San Diego, one of the most creative aspects are daily overlooked and passed by. They are the utility boxes. They are one of the first public art displays people see when exploring the city. Unfortunately it has been almost a decade in some areas since they have gotten a tune-up.
Recently one particular artist has felt passionate about them. Jason Gould, the owner of an art supply store and gallery, is behind the decoration of North Park boxes. He has set out to bring them back to life, with fresh art. He and his team are adding to the current paintings and restoring the faded ones. To him, and many other locals, it is an important piece of expression for the popular area.
This special expression goes beyond just San Diego, and it has become nationally recognized. Other cities even have proposals against them. A Houston writer, Rainey Knudson, describes how it is unnatural to embellish the urban community with these colorful boxes. The argument is they wouldn’t be noticed if people would just let them fade into the city. Instead, they supposedly make the city less urban. He notes how “no self-respecting city would put public funds towards [decorations]”. No one asked for funds, it is an artist’s creativity put out there for whoever is willing to appreciate it. He also begs the question, “Does our attention need to be drawn to these things?”. Why not notice them? Who is this hurting? It more often than not promotes creativity and gives cities another form of artistic personality.
On that note, it can however, legally hurt the artist. Street art is considered criminal vandalism and depending on the damage, it can cost you. If the damage exceeds $400 than the individual artist may serve three years of jail time. If it is under the $400 mark, it can still lead to a year of jail time. For brightening the city and making someone’s day you may serve three years. As shown in the picture above, one artist used irony on the street of LA to express this notion. If anything, this shows the importance they have and the risk street artists take to show their creativity and skill. Next time you take a walk through the city streets, try to look up and appreciate the boxes, and find one that brightens your day.