Local artists transform untility boxes for Brentwood's cityscape

Alyssa Casey is among several artists working on painting Brentwood's utility boxes. Her current project, at Sunset and Garin by Sunset Park, depicts the 1921 Liberty High School girls’ basketball team.

What says ‘Brentwood’ more than fresh flowers, produce, sunny days and whimsical art now blooming on utility boxes at several intersections in the city? 

Thanks to the Brentwood Arts Commission and several dedicated local artists, 11 of these once-colorless boxes are now bright spots throughout the city, providing drivers and pedestrians vibrant art to admire.

Last spring, the City of Brentwood and the Arts Commission posted a call for local artists to submit designs to be considered for the metal boxes, with the goal of “reflecting a youthful, playful, active recreational theme,” part of a larger effort to recognize and promote Brentwood’s best attributes. 

Four artists were selected - Debra Janis, Alyssa Casey, Jocelyn Freund and Stephanie Gomez. Each was given specific box assignments based on their submitted designs. They braved the heat of summer and fall to create their own contributions to Brentwood’s art scene.

All but a few of the boxes are complete, with those remaining scheduled to be finished in the next few weeks.

“When we looked at mock-ups of the designs last spring, I had no idea how fantastic the boxes would look – but it’s a real home run,” said an enthusiastic Brian Carleton, a three-year member of the Brentwood Arts Commission. “Our city is such a positive place and the arts commission is making a big impact. Our city’s at the point now that we can focus on art projects and the city council needs to approve these projects.

Liberty High School students kicked off the idea for the city a few years ago, said Carleton, when the student artists adorned a small number of boxes.

“Our city has become such a positive place and the arts commission is making a big impact,” he added. 

Casey used two historic photos from the early days of Brentwood. A utility box at the entrance to Sunset Park recreates a picture of the 1921 Liberty High School girls basketball team, who are shown wearing uniforms today’s athletes would certainly find restrictive. Her other box shows workers near a Balfour packing shed, documenting Brentwood’s agricultural heritage.

Janis’ works includes “Brentwood Brand,” at Walnut and Balfour Road, detailing the wooden produce crates of the 1950s, with their colorful labels. A second work features a young boy blowing large bubbles installed at Shady Willow and Grant streets. Peach blossoms brighten up the box at Minnesota and Carmel Parkway and a fourth box, at Shady Willow and Sand Creek, displays a hillside scene. 

Janis estimates she spent at least 20 hours per box, from research and design to cleaning and prepping the box, then applying numerous coats of paint. The city supplied an anti-graffiti sealant, to help protect the finished artwork, and reimbursed art supply costs. 

Pouldina Scherff, recreation manager for Brentwood’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the city has created a brochure with a map showing all the art box locations. The map can be found on the city’s website at www.brentwoodca.gov/. Alert drivers should check out their surroundings at traffic light locations to appreciate the colorful additions to the urban landscape.

Additionally, the Arts Commission has also approved a set of five sports-themed mosaics along the perimeter of the Sunset Park Sports Complex at Sunset and Garin Parkway.