Los Angeles

Project Transforms City's Utility Boxes Into Art

Almost as much as Hollywood, films and beaches, Los Angeles is also known for its street art — beautiful murals can be seen on walls and buildings, but now this art form is going in an unusual direction.

Utility boxes, often dark gray and industrial-looking, are becoming works of art.

For artists and South Pasadena residents Timothy Robert Smith and his wife Yuki Toy, their art pieces on the metal boxes are about the city where they live.

"Basically it is about all time being compressed into one single moment," Tim said of a painting of a train rushing through a station, which he modeled after the South Pasadena Metro Station.

Tom and Yuki are part of the city's Box Art Project, which so far has transformed 10 traffic signal boxes.

Yuki's painting included an ostrich in reference to the city's ostrich farm, and a coyote on a motorcycle.

"When I go for walks in the night around the library area, I see a coyote walking and they kind of look hungry and aggressive," she said.

Howard Spector from the South Pasadena Arts Council is behind getting this project to the streets of the city with a population of 25,000.

"We try to bring art to the people instead of the people going to the art," he said. "Sometimes people are intimidated by the arts. They don't necessarily go to museums or galleries because they think it's only for certain types of people."

The same idea is heading to more of the art boxes in areas such as Boyle Heights, Downtown Los Angeles and Highland Park.

Councilman Jose Huizar spearheaded a similar project in his district that has beautified 143 city-owned utility boxes. The city of Glendale has 60 painted boxes.

"All the cities have their own thing going on and it's really fun to find out what the city is about," Yuki said.

Local artists, including students, are getting the chance to showcase their visions and make art more hands-on.

Each city handles the funding for the art boxes, which usually includes a stipend for the artists and money for supplies.

In South Pasadena, local business donate to sponsor individual boxes, creating a community connection.

There will be 10 more boxes in South Pasadena and 11 more in Glendale.

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