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Orem expanding public art project

By Genelle Pugmire - Daily Herald | Sep 20, 2021
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A utility box wrapped in vinyl artwork stands at Scera Park in Orem on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo)
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A utility box wrapped in vinyl artwork stands at the intersection of 800 South and 400 East in Orem on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo)
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A utility box wrapped in vinyl artwork stands at Scera Park in Orem on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo)
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Nate Prescott, an economic development specialist for Orem City, poses with a utility box wrapped in his vinyl artwork at the intersection of 800 South and 400 East in Orem on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo)
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A utility box wrapped in vinyl artwork stands at Scera Park in Orem on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo)

After two successful tests over a year ago, the Orem Arts Council has taken on a wide-reaching beautification project.

This isn’t just any art. These selected pieces will be put on vinyl and wrapped around metal utility boxes throughout the city.

“Public art activates the imagination and encourages people to pay attention and perceive more deeply the environment they occupy. Orem Arts Council, seeking to invigorate public spaces, has begun a project to cover utility boxes, especially in Orem’s arts district,” said Cynthia Clark, a member of the Arts Council. “Rather than looking at ugly green or gray boxes, viewers can be inspired by utility boxes covered with art.”

Clark said that after seeing successful art installations on utility boxes at a Mountain West Arts Conference, the Orem Arts Council chose to test it out.

“In connection with UTOPIA Fiber and Orem City, vinyl artwork has been placed on those two boxes; one box on the east side of the Scera Shell Outdoor Theater, and one on the NW corner of 800 South and 400 East,” Clark said. “The first was an artwork created by Cassandra Barney of a fanciful figure of the imagination, while the other, by artist Nate Prescott, explores a scene of wonder including outer space and an astronaut. Both activate the imagination and cause viewers to stop and wonder.”

The two pieces were met with overwhelmingly positive feedback to the city — and now the Arts Council is moving forward to place artwork by Orem artists on other utility boxes.

“One such artwork is a piece created by Orem resident Jess Smart Smiley. The artwork is a fanciful rendition of shape people who change colors designed specifically to transition around the corners of the box,” Clark said.

As part of the search for more artwork, Orem Arts Council hopes to have an open call to artists to submit work including pieces from children and other local youths.

Besides using Orem artists, another goal is to cover utility boxes near elementary schools with children’s artwork.

“The project is currently funded by Care Grant money, but as the project expands the arts council hopes to be able to work with local businesses and others, possibly using donations, and other funding sources to beautify our city,” Clark said. “Utility boxes covered with artwork can stimulate ideas about art and society, about our interconnected lives, and about our dynamic community.”

According to Nate Prescott, one of the artists spurring on the project the idea for this public art program is about a decade old.

“This has been a joint effort between the Orem Arts Council and City staff,” Prescott said.

“Current boxes were part of the effort to show Orem the possibilities of public art in the Community,” he added. “Public art creates an opportunity for conversation, understanding, and expression.”

In most cases, art will be submitted as a digital file to be printed on vinyl and then wrapped around each box.

“We will be requesting submissions from the community soon and then start putting citizens’ art onto traffic signal boxes and utility boxes all around Orem,” Prescott said.

A call for submissions will go out through social media, monthly newsletters and other means to gather art.

“A template will be posted and artists will submit their graphic on the template. Templates will reflect the dimensions of each box,” Prescott added.

Chosen artists will receive a stipend in exchange for use of the art on one specific box.

Decision criteria:

  • Be an original idea
  • Must not have large areas of blank color (to deter graffiti)
  • Must not include trademarks, brands, business names, logos, or copyrighted images
  • Must not include political or religious images, images that may upset the community (nudity or violence), significant amounts of text

“We hope to extend this out by working with local schools and businesses as well. We want to run an art contest at different schools in Orem and have the winning art put onto a utility box,” Prescott said.

Businesses are also given the opportunity to sponsor a box near them with a small donation.

“People would have a reason to get out of their car and view the art — parking near the business and spending time outside of it,” Prescott said. “The hope is that an increase in pedestrian traffic in front of a business would translate into more people being exposed to the business and buying from them.”

While there are places like University Place, and throughout Provo, where painted wall murals are going up, the Orem Arts Council is hoping to take care of two things at the same time, getting rid of ugly metal boxes and bring art to the community.

More information on the project can be found on the city website at http://orem.org.

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