Citywide artwork utilizes form and function

Photo Gallery: Utility box murals pop up in Glendale
Glendale artist Arpine Shakhbandaryan stands next to the utility box mural she painted at Lexington and Brand Blvd. in Glendale on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. The mural includes a peacock, a pomegranate tree, Glendale spelled out in fancy lettering and artwork representing a map of all 26 murals. The program was sponsored by the Arts & Culture Commission and artists painted 26 utility box murals around Brand Blvd. as part of the Great American Clean Up in Glendale on Saturday, May 17, 2014.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

As soon as Patti Sustin turned to park at her office building in downtown Glendale on Monday morning, she noticed the bland utility box on the street corner had gotten a mural makeover since the weekend.

Bright images of a pomegranate tree, a peacock and flowers on a crème-colored base had been painted across the utility box on the southeast corner of North Brand Boulevard and East Lexington Drive.

PHOTOS: Utility box murals pop up in Glendale

“I think it looks great,” Sustin, an office manager, said as she gave the mural a once-over while waiting for lunch at a food truck parked nearby.


“It’s much better than that ugly thing that was here before. I wish they did this to all of them,” she said.

The painted utility box is one of 26 scattered throughout the city’s core that were decorated last weekend during the city’s annual “Great American Cleanup,” a community event aimed at beautifying Glendale through weed abatement and trash pickup.

Glendale is on a mission to be more arts-friendly like other cities such as Santa Monica and Pasadena. The utility-box murals, dubbed “Beyond the Box,” are the first of many planned arts projects. The city’s Arts & Culture Commission has roughly $1.4 million from developer fees to work with, of which $20,000 went to pay for the murals.

Although the artists and volunteers painted during the cleanup event on Saturday, some continued to work into the week.


On Tuesday, Maryley Camacho, a marketing specialist with a penchant for painting, was putting the finishing touches on her mural northwest corner of North Brand Boulevard and West Doran Street that was inspired by the newly renovated Brand Library & Art Center with her husband, Cristian.

The painting pulled architectural elements from the Moorish-style building and featured bookshelves with titles by literary greats such as Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Allen Poe.

Camacho, from Pacoima, said she was happy to see the city supporting public arts and passersby enjoying her work.

“We’re getting a really positive reaction,” Camacho said, adding that one of her favorite murals was down the street from hers on the southeast corner of West Doran and Orange streets.

That one, called “Afronaut” features a surprised young boy with a rocket lifting off out of his afro on one side of the utility box and an astronaut standing on a purple and green landscape on the other.

Several of the murals painted similar imaginative and outlandish images as the Arts & Culture Commission called on artists to be unique with their creations when filling out their applications. One mural features fish riding bicycles, while another has sheep flying in a blue sky in replace of clouds.

Arpine Shakhbandaryan, a 20-year Glendale resident and artist, was the mastermind behind the mural that caught the attention of Sustin, the office manager. Shakhbandaryan’s mural was done in the style of Armenian illuminated art, which tends to be intricate and festive.

Shakhbandaryan was inspired by the peacock in the city’s seal, a bird that shows up often in illuminated manuscripts. At first, she was afraid the murals would get lost in the busy landscape of downtown, with its tall buildings and cars, but that fear quickly dissipated when she drove by some of the murals earlier this week.


“They do catch your eye,” she said. “They’re not getting lost.”

Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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