Red Deer’s downtown utility boxes blossom with public art

Creative youths make a colourful statement

Bursting with butterflies, flowers and signs of community, Red Deer’s downtown utility boxes have gone beyond being strictly utilitarian.

Public art created by Red Deer students is being displayed in an innovative way — it’s been wrapped, like bus advertising, around four street-corner electrical utility boxes.

The beautification project was initiated by the Downtown Community Development Committee, which is made up of city, business representatives and other downtown stakeholders, with a $3,000 grant from the City of Red Deer.

The project involved young artists in grades 8 and 10, who created their own compositions along the theme of what community means to them.

Alexis Swenson, Sara Mateika and Zero Coghlin, of Central Middle School, depicted symbols of love, peace and inclusion through images such as a cloud of butterflies being released, and two people of different races holding hands.

The Ross Street Patio box, by Notre Dame student Laira Hernandez, of Philippines heritage, shows her interpretation of becoming Canadian.

The original artworks were transferred onto vinyl wrapping by Reid Signs, then applied to the utility boxes. Besides the colourful box on the Ross Street Patio, two others are located near the Red Deer Courthouse, and one is at 48th Street and 48th Avenue.

Duane Moleni, a committee member who works under the auspices of the CARE (Central Alberta Refugee Effort), said he’s thrilled with students’ creativity — and so are other members of the community. Moleni has been hearing positive feedback since the boxes were wrapped earlier this month.

“I love it. I think it’s fabulous,” said Amanda Gould, executive-director of the Red Deer Downtown Business Association. Not only does the project add to the downtown’s art and culture scene, but Gould believes it promotes a neighbourhood feeling, and will reduce graffiti.

Moleni said the Downtown Community Development Committee will looking for more funding to decorate more utility boxes in future.

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