Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Art finds blank slate in utility boxes

Ketchum program aims to ‘create vitality’

Express Staff Writer

Supporters of the arts in Ketchum see untapped potential in some unlikely places. The Ketchum Arts Commission and the Ketchum Community Development Corp. are targeting street-corner utility boxes as an opportunity to be exploited by the end of the year.

With donations from private parties and encouragement from the city, as well as buy-in from owners of those boxes, artists will turn utilitarian items into palettes.

Claudia McCain, chair of the arts commission, presented the idea to the Ketchum City Council on Monday.

"For about 17 years I've wanted this project to happen," she said.


Organizers have identified seven boxes for potential beautification; four may be complete by the end of summer.

"The KAC's Utility Box Art Project intends to create vitality throughout the city by transforming mundane infrastructure elements into engaging works of art," states a city staff report. "Further, the project will provide artists opportunities for exhibit and exposure of their work on a broad scale in an accessible public setting."

McCain said other cities such as Boise and Seattle have implemented similar programs.

Besides providing an outlet for artists and enhancing the public sphere, boxes that are decorated can deter graffiti and vandalism, she said.

The boxes won't, however, become promotional vehicles for businesses or other interest groups.

"We don't want them to become advertisements," said Jon Duval, Community Development Corp. executive director.

Rebecca Meany:

Other art, beautification opportunities

The Ketchum Arts Commission has issued its 2012 Art on Fourth call for artists. The commission will choose six artists for projects along the Fourth Street Heritage Corridor this summer. The artists selected will receive a stipend for exhibition of their work. For information, log on to

The city of Ketchum is issuing a request for qualifications for city beautification and plant health care. Materials for these RFQs may be found on the city's website. Under "Departments" click on "Parks & Recreation," then "Request for Proposals/Qualifications." For questions, contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 726-7820.

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