The City of DeKalb and Citizens’ Community Enhancement Commission (CCEC) are seeking DeKalb community members to transform utility boxes into vibrant and welcoming works of art.
Three utility boxes in high-traffic areas of downtown DeKalb have been selected for the project. The metal boxes, which are between four and five-feet tall and two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half-feet wide, offer large canvases for local artists to display their creations. The boxes are located behind City Hall, in Van Buer Plaza and in Palmer Court, next to the Egyptian Theatre.
The project is part of the community’s efforts to make DeKalb a welcoming community where everyone feels a sense of belonging. Incorporation of these themes will be evaluated as proposals are considered along with the artwork’s vibrance and the originality and appropriateness for its site in downtown DeKalb.
A Call for Artists has been released for the utility box artwork initiative and local artists are encouraged to apply. The Call is open to DeKalb residents, current and former students and employees at Northern Illinois University, Kishwaukee College and the DeKalb School District, those working in DeKalb as well as outside artists. Both novice and professional artists are invited to submit proposals.
For the utility box project, it is preferred artists create designs in digital format that will be printed on vinyl and wrapped around the boxes by a third-party fabricator.
Vinyl wraps are preferred for their durability and resistance to rust and graffiti. They also provide an opportunity for photographers and digital artists. Proposals to paint a utility box will also be considered.
This initiative will be funded through a portion of a $50,000 T-Mobile Hometown Grant secured by the City, so there is no cost to participate. The grant will fund creation and installation of the vinyl wraps or reimbursement of up to $150 per artist for paint and supply expenses if the box is painted.
More information, including templates with the dimensions of the utility boxes, are included with the Call for Artists, which can be found here. The deadline for submissions is July 13, 2022, at 11:59 p.m.
The utility box project is part of a busy summer for public art planned in DeKalb. Public mural proposals continue to be accepted following the release earlier this month of another Call for Artists. The Paint-A-Plug, in which community members can paint a fire hydrant, has also entered another season.
The City is planning for the murals and utility boxes to be completed this fall.
Photo: DeKalb Citizens’ Community Enhancement Commission Member Jeanine Holcomb stands next to a utility box in Van Buer Plaza. It is one of three utility boxes in downtown DeKalb selected to be used for the new public arts initiative.