Art Program Fighting Back Against Vandalism

JK |

mCt Title Block - boxes[1] Artist: Cassandra Paul; Location: ​58 Avenue and 1A Street S.W.  [2] Artist: Elena Busan; Location: 25 Avenue and Spiller Road S.E.


The ninth installment in our Facelift series, exploring the new face of our city.


mC:t    2015.07.23    


Artists to the rescue!


It is clear that the utility boxes around Calgary are “utilitarian” no more. As more utility boxes are being revealed in beautifully painted designs all over the city, one cannot help but take notice of these facelifts. From dinosaurs to cascading mountains, the designs of the Utility Box Public Art Program are changing the streetscape as we know it.


As a graffiti abatement measure, the program was introduced back in 2010 by Peter Bushe, a road sign and streetlight project specialist for the City of Calgary. The premise of this program is to discourage vandalism of the utility boxes by covering them with works of commissioned artists. Through its success of reducing this vandalism by 91% [3], it has now become a permanent part of the city. Currently there are hundreds of painted utility boxes scattered throughout Calgary and in addition to the benefit of discouraging vandalism, the boxes help to inject more art into the public eye.


The program works through commissioning artists, based on an application and jury system, to create painted works for preselected utility boxes. The priority of the boxes chosen is typically for those in disrepair as well as boxes along main corridors, so make sure to keep an eye out!


The fees for these boxes come from the city budget and cost around $1000, which covers the artist fees and supplies [4]. In addition to the preselected boxes, there is also the opportunity for communities to apply and pay to have their own utility boxes painted. Although the fees may appear expensive, one must take into account that if this program was not in place much of this money could be spent cleaning graffiti from the unpainted boxes instead of supplying the city with works of art to be enjoyed.


Here are just a few of the amazing painted utility boxes we spotted around the city:


mCt Title Block - boxes4

[5] Artist: Cassandra Paul; Location: ​20 Avenue and 10 Street N.W. [6] Artist: Daniel Kirk; Location: 16 Avenue and 11 Street N.W.



mCt Title Block - boxes2

[7] Artist: Aaron Navrady; Location: ​Elbow Drive & Glenmore Trail S.W. [8] Artist: Kyle Metcalf; Location: Any Guesses?



mCt Title Block - boxes5

[9] Artist: Unknown; Location: ​Bow Tr. & Winslow Cres. S.W.  [10] Artist: Daniel Kirk; Location: Elbow Drive and 68 Avenue S.W. [11] Artist: Elena Busan; Location: 2808 Spiller Road S.E.



mCt Title Block - boxes6

[12] Artist: Anastasia Breeze; Location: ​Edmonton Trail and 20 Avenue N.E. [13] Artist: Emma Bresola; Location: 16 Avenue and 2 Street N.W.​



Now that we have shown you where to find some of our favourite utility boxes, perhaps you can tell us where to find these:


mCt Title Block - boxes3

[14] Artist: Karen Klassen; Location: ??? [15] Artist: Mary Leigh Doyle; Location: ??? [16] Artist: Lyse Deselliers; Location: ???


If you know where any of these utility boxes are, or perhaps have additional boxes you would like us to see, we would love to hear from you…


You can post your photos on Instagram using #faceliftyyc and help us with our collection of design and inspiring utility box facelifts around Calgary or simply let us know your findings on our Facebook page or Twitter handle @makecalgarytalk.



Next: Coming soon…
Previous: Is the East Village Redevelopment Socially Inclusive?


[1] “Utility Box Public Art Program”. The City of Calgary. July 21, 2015.
[2] Ibid.
[3] “Painted Utility Boxes Help Brighten up Communities”. The Calgary Journal. July 15, 2015.
[4] “Utility Box Public Art Program”. The City of Calgary. July 21, 2015.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Photo taken by author
[13] “Utility Box Public Art Program”. The City of Calgary. July 21, 2015.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.

makeCalgary:talk provokes conversation among Calgarians about the design of our city. Catch up with us on Twitter (@makecalgarytalk), Instagram (makecalgarytalk), or Facebook.