Artists having a ball with utility boxes

Graffiti is a big problem in the city, and a headache for businesses and property owners.

 Joe Gigantelli owns an automotive shop on 16 Ave.

 “Every morning when we come by there’s always a little bit of graffiti on our buildings and on our garbage cans and in the surrounding area,” he says. “We’re out there constantly painting and cleaning things up.”

 But while street poles, garbage bins and buildings are targets, taggers tend to leave the painted utility boxes alone.

 For the past two years, the city’s painted utility box program has turned dull, grey electrical boxes into works of art.

 Peter Bushe, who coordinated the program, says there’s been a 91 per cent reduction in graffiti vandalism on the boxes.

 “I think it’s an unsaid code of ethics where they don’t tag over other people’s artwork.”

 Every one of the more than 50 boxes painted was done by Calgary artists.

 Wil Yee has painted a number of boxes on 16 Ave.

 “It’s really providing a source for the artists to express themselves and share their passion and their skills with the community,” he says.

 And, it’s great exposure for the artists. Hundreds of thousands of people pass these boxes every day and they’ve certainly attracted attention.

 Nathaniel Milljour says his work on the utility boxes has led to other opportunities.

 “There’ve been a few people that have noticed my stuff and sought me out to do other commissions and other pieces of artwork.”

The project has been so successful, the city plans to expand it.

 They are adding another 30 to 40 boxes around the city this year and, in honour of the Stampede Centennial, some of the boxes around the Stampede grounds will be painted with western heritage artwork.

 For more information about the utility box art program, or if you’re an artist who wants to take part, click here for more information.

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