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Splash of color: Local artists bring beauty to Pleasanton utility boxes

Local artists bring beauty to city streets

What once were dull, unnoticeable metal boxes located around Pleasanton are being transformed into colorful stations dedicated to showcasing the culture and history of the city, thanks to local artists and city leaders.

The effort, called "Project Paint Box," has an ambitious goal: paint all traffic utility boxes in Pleasanton, beautifying the city while also helping deter graffiti and praising the work of area artists.

"Our goal is to eventually paint all 200-plus utility boxes in the city," said Michele Crose, Pleasanton's community services manager. "It may take us several years, considering we're getting three to eight (boxes) each time, but hopefully as we get known for painting utility boxes, we'll get more and more responses every year."

Five boxes have been painted since the program began in 2014, and five more designs have been approved, to be painted later this year.

"We're all bringing something positive and good when we are creating," said Pleasanton artist Tatiana Salvator, whose box is located on Ray and 1st streets. "It's like we're spreading a little seed of love through our art."

Salvator's design, "I Love Pleasanton," incorporates diversity and key character attributes in a street fair-type setting modeled after the Pooch Parade, which takes place in Pleasanton each year.

Tri-Valley artist Chinar Desai, an architectural designer and art teacher, chose a design based on Pleasanton's layout, complete with hills and the Pleasanton arch.

"I tried to incorporate layers of Pleasanton," Desai said of the box at Main and St. John streets out front of Oasis Grille. "From rolling hills to layers of housing and parks and business communities to downtown -- connecting that all together I came up with this concept."

Project Paint Box was developed when members of the Civic Arts Commission suggested a public art program in early 2014. Receiving praise from city staff, the project's Phase 1 began in May 2014 with a call to artists.

The Public Art Selection Subcommittee (PASS) reviewed all applications, making sure each fit criteria listed in the "Call to Artists" packet. Designs then progressed to the Civic Arts Commission and the City Council, both of which reviewed the design and offered insight to the artwork itself.

Once approved, the commission provided feedback and established a contract with each artist to set up a four-week period for the work to be completed.

PASS received 10 proposals for Phase 1 and moved four forward. Upon review, the Civic Arts Commission selected three of the designs. The City Council approved all three, which are now painted on utility boxes.

Artists involved in Phase 1 were paid $500 from the city's public art acquisition fund, which allocates money each year to the purchase of public art. The project's budget was increased for Phase 2, which began in April, with artists being paid $750.

The three Phase 1 pieces chosen were "I Love Pleasanton" by Salvator, "PTown -- 'Me' Town!" by Desai, and "Children at Play" by artist Irma Grant, located at Neal and 1st streets.

Salvator said when she heard about "Project Paint Box," she was excited to apply.

A self-taught artist originally from Brazil, she has been painting most of her life and views it as a form of healing. Prior to painting her utility box on Ray and 1st streets, she painted a smaller box at Harvest Park Middle School and has showcased some of her art in exhibits at the Firehouse Arts Center.

Throughout "I Love Pleasanton" are members of her family -- her brother, sons and nephews are found on multiple sides of the box. Salvator also incorporated people who stopped to talk to her on the street as she was painting.

"I got to know a little bit of their lives," Salvator said. "I took the time to talk to them and heard what they had to say. I love meeting people."

Like Salvator, Grant incorporated people she knew into her design, "Children at Play." Featured on the box are her daughters and neighborhood children, which add to the work's family-feel.

Located near the Meadowlark Dairy and Lions Wayside Park, her box exemplifies the spirit of the area as children joyfully eat ice cream and play together, she said. Formed off her personal experiences in Pleasanton and pictures she has taken, Grant's design did not take long for her to create.

"Once I have the idea in my head, it's just fitting it together," said Grant, a Pleasanton resident originally from the Netherlands.

In addition to her box, she recently finished painting the walls of the new restaurant Casbah in downtown Pleasanton. She also plans to paint a second utility box in Pleasanton later this year.

Grant said she hopes her two painted boxes will bring "color and happiness" to the Pleasanton community and that people who see the colorful boxes can't help but smile.

Two Phase 2 artists have also completed their boxes. Bianca Nandzik's box, "Wildflowers and Native Butterfly," is located on the corner of Del Valle Parkway and Main Street. Amador Valley High student Austin Willis created a box called "Happy Faces" located outside the school.

Nandzik, a native of Germany now living in San Francisco, based her concept off nature found in the Bay Area. Her design has strong connections to the drought, featuring the California poppy and Anise Swallowtail butterfly, the latter of which is a flexible species capable of surviving the drought due to its ability to adapt to different ecotypes.

While painting, Nandzik said she met a man who told her about the Callippe butterfly, an endangered species found in regions within the Bay Area and namesake of Pleasanton's Callippe Preserve Golf Course; she decided to add that butterfly to the box as well.

Nandzik said she hopes her box reminds people of California's history and helps bring beauty to Pleasanton.

Willis' design is not directly linked to Pleasanton but represents a spirit of fun. In graffiti-style art, brightly colored purple and yellow faces surround the box.

"(The committee) liked that it was student-incorporated, a nod to graffiti and had this whimsical fun," Crose said. "It really is a different view of happy faces. (It is) the only one that doesn't really speak to any strong Pleasanton connection, but they were willing to go outside of that because they liked his artwork."

Apart from Nandzik and Willis, five other designs have been approved by the City Council as part of Phase 2, with some locations not yet solidified:

* "A Sunflower Day" by artist Robby Houghton incorporates sunflowers, which he considers gifts of "radiant warmth" and happiness. They symbolize faithfulness, durability, vibrancy and a great day in Pleasanton, which, according to Robby, is "where all the wonderful symbolism does come true."

* "The Nature of Pleasanton" by Mehdia Zaida has a different design on each side of the box, all displaying a unique representation of nature, which is "important to life in Pleasanton." The artwork is underway near Alisal Elementary School.

* "Twilight" by Diana Diaz represents the Pleasanton Ridge. Raised in Pleasanton, she found inspiration in the city's trees and Kottinger Community Park.

* "The Most Pleasant Hills" by Robert Heubel is an abstract landscape painting based on his previous work. The color scheme for the hills is shades of orange/reds or green/blues, to be decided by the committee upon the painting of the box.

* "Hummingbirds" by Grant depicts two hummingbirds eating nectar from red Crocosmia flowers, hardy flowers common in Pleasanton and the San Francisco Bay Area. Her design is based off a photograph her father-in-law took on a visit to Pleasanton.

An eighth design is currently going through the approval process.

Applications for Phase 2 are no longer accepted, but Phase 3 is expected to start in early 2016.

As Phase 2 artists continue to paint utility boxes, the city is accepting donations to sponsor artists' boxes. A $500 donation will go to the artists toward their stipend and to help with costs of supplies. Sponsors can also have their names written on the box. For more information, email mcrose@cityofpleasantonca.gov.

Comments

15 people like this
Posted by Kelly
a resident of Canyon Meadows
on Aug 11, 2015 at 1:05 pm

It's very tacky and just looks like blight. I'ts basically an attempt to ghettoize Pleasanton. I have seen this in major urban cities and it's urban blight. This does not fit into Pleasantons clean image. The idea that this form of graffiti will deter another form of graffiti is just ridiculous. First of all we don't even have graffiti problems on our electrical boxes or in Pleasanton overall. Just because urban cities are aggressie with as thier approach with fighting blight with blight, doesn't mean it works or fits with Pleasanton.


10 people like this
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Kelly, as much as I hate to say it, as I do enjoy painting, these things do look rather tacky.

I would rather my tax dollars go towards paving the numerous roads in bad shape(stoneridge, Stanley or Valley, anyone?), but that would be too practical I suppose.


10 people like this
Posted by Don
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Aug 11, 2015 at 3:56 pm

I like the bright works of art. It adds to the friendly atmosphere. I would also love to see your work Kelly and Frequent Walker Miles. There seems to be lots of talented artists in town.


Like this comment
Posted by Pam
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 11, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Comment removed as off topic.


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Posted by Pam
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 11, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Comment removed as off topic.


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Posted by siriusly
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 11, 2015 at 7:20 pm

Comment removed as off topic.


5 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 11, 2015 at 7:51 pm

I like the idea, not my artistic favorites, but I applaud trying something different......though I hope we didn't pay top dollar for this. Would be a fun art project for local schools, each gets a box and comes up with a theme / display.


8 people like this
Posted by Kelly
a resident of Canyon Meadows
on Aug 11, 2015 at 8:56 pm

Pam, I find that people like who don't like other peoples opinions, personally attack them like you did me. Let me restate my opinion just for you:

It's very tacky and just looks like blight. The majority of Pleasantonians don't want random murals painted around town and i'ts basically an attempt to ghettoize Pleasanton. I have seen this in major urban cities and everyone I know considers it urban blight. This does not fit into Pleasantons clean image. The idea that this form of graffiti will deter another form of graffiti is just ridiculous. First of all, we don't even have graffiti problems on our electrical boxes or in Pleasanton overall. Just because urban cities are aggressive with volunteer graffiti as thier approach to fighting blight with blight, doesn't mean it's art or even fit within the hometown look and feel of Pleasanton.


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Posted by get a grip Kelly
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 11, 2015 at 10:16 pm

[Post removed because it added no value to the conversation, but only insulted another commenter.]




2 people like this
Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Aug 12, 2015 at 7:41 am

Take a look at picture #6 of this article. A drab dark green utility box. That's the standard that we are comparing these painting projects to. I like the painting in picture #2 of the butterflies: nice, bright colors and a pleasing theme. My least favorite is the one in picture #4 because, while it is well done, it is too reminiscent of the style used by many graffiti works.


20 people like this
Posted by wondering
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 12, 2015 at 8:27 am



Let me just say- I like the idea. I also believe it is quite fitting for Pleasanton. Anyone else enjoy them as much as I do? I love the murals around downtown also.


12 people like this
Posted by Sandy
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 12, 2015 at 8:36 am

It brightens up the downtown. Now, if we can change our parking to the style of parking Livermore has we'd have it made!


Like this comment
Posted by wondering
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 12, 2015 at 9:16 am

why do you think Livermore parking is better? I am curious.


9 people like this
Posted by Amber
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2015 at 9:35 am

I love it and my kids love it I think it's a great way to cover up the slightly boxes


10 people like this
Posted by Claudette
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2015 at 9:53 am

As an artist I like seeing art even on the utility boxes. Art is always subjective, so some I like and others not so much and it's OK. Not everyone will like everything all the time ~ It would be nice to see them changed up each year and perhaps next year get the schools involved to show their School Spirit and Artistic Talent ~

The Art Piece at the Senior Center would be fun to change up too. If that were to be repainted by different artists each year, that would keep it interesting and something to look forward to, artistically and community wise ~

The Artists did not get paid for their time just the cost of doing the project, materials only.


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Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Aug 12, 2015 at 10:11 am

@Claudette: " It would be nice to see them changed up each year and perhaps next year get the schools involved to show their School Spirit and Artistic Talent "

Regular changes and updating should be part of the plan. One advantage to the drab green utility boxes is that they probably age better than a utility box decorated with a bright, colorful painting. After a few years, a drab green utility box still looks like a drab green utility box, while a bright colorful painting starts to looks progressively worse as the colors fade.


2 people like this
Posted by Amber Lee
a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Aug 13, 2015 at 11:18 am

Paint is available that lasts more than one year. Maybe half of the boxes could be painted by children/teens and half by adults. Are paint stores willing to provide the paint for free or at a considerable discount? If there a Senior artists at the Senior Center, can one of them be selected to do the painting? One need not be an artist to do the painting.




10 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton resident
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:15 am

I love little life they add to rather huge plain green/ gray boxes.
Being an artist, I appreciate the amount of hard work each artist has pt into this. It is not easy. I am sure city will change it in 2-3 years (that is legit time considering amount of hard work this requires)
I like how they chose location for each artwork. fits perfect.
My favorite is Poppies & Pleasanton Downtown one. Adds color life to locations.


6 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 14, 2015 at 7:29 am

Adds a bit of color and whimsy to our town. I like it - better than the drab boxes without any decoration.

Of course, no one will ever agree on the art work, but that's art isn't it?


Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 14, 2015 at 8:55 am

I like them, well the one by concert in the park with the kids on it is kinda creep, those fingers haha. But most others are nice. Milpitas has also done theirs recently too and those are very cool and colorful.


10 people like this
Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 9:44 am

The reality of art is that a few individuals like it but the majority doesn't understand it. In this case I don't understand how the city staff could have allowed these obnoxious colors when we have such a nice place to live. It looks like inner city graffiti to me an to most of my friends and family and to be honest I would love to find out who approved this at the city. It is almost as bad as the new Starbucks building on Main Street being built without a parking lot? Are there that many unintelegent people working for the city of Pleasanton? Did someone get paid off to look the other way? This kind of nonsense has to stop because it's only going to get worse if we don't do anything about it!


7 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Aug 14, 2015 at 10:46 am

The artwork is great, that oversized chain store Starbucks is not!!!! Didn't we lose about 8-10 parking spots?? Where are all the "in lieu" of parking fees going??


7 people like this
Posted by Amber Lee
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 15, 2015 at 12:19 pm

There are many ways to view art. No individual speaks for the majority of residents in town with regard to understanding art.

I don't find colors obnoxious. FYI: colors are the attributes of light and not colored objects. What one perceives in the morning, high noon and when it's dark are changes.

To say to be honest implies that you are not honest. What is it?


2 people like this
Posted by Amber lee
a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Aug 15, 2015 at 12:21 pm

I truly appreciate the painted boxes.


Like this comment
Posted by Towney
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 17, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Might this attract attention to utility boxes that should be left alone by children and pranksters? Did we have a problem before? Were these eyesores or did they just blend in? How many residents, children really took notice before? Some types of utility boxes used to burn butterfly wings, remember? I truly support and enjoy local art, but is this truly necessary or wise?


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Posted by Amber Lee
a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Aug 17, 2015 at 2:57 pm

What's is "necessary and wise"?


2 people like this
Posted by global wanderer
a resident of Mohr Park
on Aug 17, 2015 at 3:46 pm

:) :) :)
Art is always subjective. not everyone will like everything.
Sure, city officials who approved his know that.

To those wondering about if out small town had grafitti issues 'ever' .. yes.I saw one recently on vally & santa rita. later that box got fresh paint coat by city. Have seen it almost always on box neat parkside/ sports park.
So there!

To those wondering about 'small town' 'ghettoism'[for me- any town is 'hood' or 'ghetto' - of any or all races :)]
and to those iffy about colors....
colors are part of life! why not embrace them?! think global!

To those worried about 'tax dollar'. did you read article? did you read 'stiepend' these artists got?!!! - read again. than think.

To those commments about letting kids paint - excellent idea. and sure city will take that up. but to initiate this- their approach has been excellent so far.
wonder how many who wondered about letting kids do it- actually read this article.
peppy purple & yellow happy faces near Amador High is done by HIGHSCHOOL KID/YOUTH- (yeah graffiti style- but hey! its near highschool- those kids get it!)

Change is inevitable! For me, this art is sight of Joy.
I enjoy boxes in livermore, walnut creek, and many many other downtowns.

Good job city officials, for allowing it.
Thank You.



Like this comment
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2015 at 4:52 pm

"To those worried about 'tax dollar'. did you read article? did you read 'stiepend' these artists got?!!! - read again. than think."

Frankly I don't even know how to begin to address the various issues one can raise over this statement.




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Posted by Towney
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 17, 2015 at 6:55 pm

RE: "Wise". Just a question about safety. Years ago environmental groups sued then PacBell because utility cabinets were generating heat that was searing the wings off butterflies. No joke. This led to general concerns about the safety of little ones with little fingers that like to explore. Perhaps THESE utility boxes are "safe" for painting, but could this project generate otherwise unwanted attention and curiosity about other kinds of utility boxes/cabinets, owned by PGE, telecom carriers, private entities. Do all inquiring creative minds, children and adults, have ability to discern whether or not utility cabinets should be approached/touched at all? Should these be considered canvases at all? Is it best to simply leave them alone? Not sure how this has worked in other communities or if this has generated other safety issues. Just wondering myself. (And I have long been a supporter of local arts.)


Like this comment
Posted by MT
a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Aug 18, 2015 at 8:55 am

I think that we should have had the art students from the high schools do this. the people we are paying for this have the art skills of a 3 year old. These boxes make us look like idiots.


Like this comment
Posted by Good
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 18, 2015 at 10:48 am

Although it is irrelevant, someone brought up the topic: I welcome Starbucks to downtown. Yay!


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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