A DeKalb area community group is stepping up to offer an artist incentive to community members who help transform utility boxes into vibrant and welcoming works of art.
The $150 incentive for each of the three utility boxes is being provided by DeKalb County Community Gardens to serve as compensation for the artists’ work and talent.
“We are grateful that local businesses and organizations like DeKalb County Community Gardens have embraced the city’s efforts to highlight art and culture in our community and are making an investment in these beautification initiatives,” said Citizens’ Community Enhancement Commission (CCEC) chair, Brad Hoey. The City and CCEC are facilitating the utility box artwork project.
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.
Along with the artist incentive from DeKalb County Community Gardens, this project will be supported through a portion of a $50,000 T-Mobile Hometown Grant secured by the City. 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.
DeKalb County Community Gardens is the most recent example of a local organization partnering with the City and CCEC to grow public art in DeKalb. The Hometown Association of Realtors awarded a grant for the Unity Mural in the Lincoln Highway bike underpass, and OC Creative is providing a $100 incentive to artists who paint a fire hydrant for the Paint-A-Plug program.
The utility box project and Paint-A-Plug are 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 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.