Artists add more color to downtown Glendale with this year's utility box murals

A handful of artists selected from Glendale and as far as the Central Coast decorated utility boxes in the downtown area with murals this past weekend as part of a citywide arts program.

Thirteen artists painted their artwork as part of the sixth Beyond the Box mural project. The Glendale Arts and Culture Commission called on artists at the beginning of February to submit their proposed designs for a chance to expand upon the 80 utility-box murals that are already in and around downtown Glendale.

Chuck Wike, community relations manager for the city’s Library, Arts and Culture Department, came in during the second year of the project and said the idea was a way for the arts commission to make an immediate impact on Glendale.

“All of the artists have been a joy to work with,” Wike said. “They're really putting their stamp on the city and, while they’re all different, it's part of the [community’s] identity now.”

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Although the murals started as a way to beautify downtown, Wike said residents in other parts of the city are asking for their own utility-box murals.

Freelance animator Ruben Espinoza, who traveled all the way from Santa Maria, had his "Mariachis" design selected and it can now be seen on the corner of North Verdugo Road and North Glendale Avenue.

Espinoza said he wanted to celebrate his Mexican culture in a positive way and chose the theatrical costumes of mariachi performers. He said he heard nothing but support from passersby over the weekend.

“There was a little kid, his dad drove him, he was probably 10 or 11 at most, and he brought me a Coke Zero — It was so surreal,” Espinoza said. “He said ‘I just wanted to give you this because you've been working hard, and we really like what you're doing.’”

Julia Heglund, an artist living in Glendale, painted a utility box on the corner of South Verdugo Road and East Broadway with her mural titled “Skywatchers.” It’s made out of abstract shapes and patterns to represent the Verdugo mountains.

“It was actually pretty appropriate that the utility box I got was on Verdugo,” Heglund said. “You can see the mountains on the utility box, but you can also see the Verdugo mountains behind it, which I thought was pretty cool.”

The project uses funds from the city's Urban Art Program, which is designed to promote diversity and stimulate the local cultural environment, according to the program's website.

jeff.landa@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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