Bringing Brentwood’s past to life

A new, public-art project will soon put a splash of color along Brentwood’s streets.

Nine utility boxes will be getting artistic makeovers of painted murals through the project, with costs covered by Brentwood’s Public Art Program Acquisition Fund.

“The residents of Brentwood have embraced the public-art program in Brentwood and look forward to many more pieces to enhance the community,” said Poldina Scherff, Brentwood’s recreation manager.

Brentwood’s City Council approved the project, which was recommended by the Arts Commission, on July 28. Since then, “A Call for Artists” was issued to invite artists to participate in the project, of which, four were selected to complete the transformation of nine utility boxes into pieces of art that reflect the community.

“The art reflects the natural beauty of the surrounding area and enhances the surrounding environment,” said Scherff. “(It) reflects a youthful, playful, active or recreational theme.”

Artist Alyssa Casey, from Berkeley, will be painting boxes on Fairview Avenue and Garin Parkway. Casey’s parents, John and Jody Casey, grandparents Billie and Bearl Casey and Rita Dell’Immagine and aunt and uncle Mary and Jerry Black, all live in Brentwood.

“I saw painting the utility boxes as the perfect opportunity to bring to life, at an almost human scale, two images from Brentwood’s history,” said Casey. “My proposal was based on two photos from the collection of the East Contra Costa Historical Society.”

Casey will be painting the utility box on the corner of Fairview Avenue and Balfour Road, which will depict past Brentwood residents joyfully running across the drying yard of one of the seven Balfour, Guthrie and Company packing sheds, which were once a recognizable landmarks in Brentwood.

According to Contra Costa County’s Department of Agriculture, Balfour, Guthrie and Company ran the largest fruit-drying yard in the world, which operated until the mid 1940s, when they sold the land that would become much of what is now Brentwood.

At the corner of Garin Parkway and Sunset Road, at the gate of Sunset Park, Casey will also be painting a reproduction of a photograph of the 1921 Liberty Union High School girls’ basketball team.

“The rich blue-greens of Liberty Basketball will subtly blend in with the surrounding trees, sidewalk and shadows, as though the memory of the 1921 girls’ team has come alive to inspire us to enter the park, work hard and have fun,” said Casey.

Other artists include Jocelyn Freund from Brentwood, who has chosen the theme of life, happy memories and children.

Antioch artist Debra Janis will also be painting boxes. She has chosen to paint a wooden produce crate, peach blossoms, bees, the Brentwood hills and a boy with bubbles.

The fourth artist, Stephanie Gomez, is also from Brentwood and will be painting U-pick cherries on the utility box at the corner of O’Hara Avenue and Sand Creek Road.

The project is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 31.