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Artists needed for Santa Maria utility box art project

Part of an effort to help beautify city landscape

Artists needed for Santa Maria...

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - There's a call to artists now happening in Santa Maria.

"We're looking for your ideas," said Santa Maria public information officer Mark van de Kamp.

More specifically, city leaders are recruiting artists who might be interested in taking part in "Phase 2" of the utility box art project.

"This is a great way to beautify our community with art in places that you wouldn't expect to see pop up," said van de Kamp. "These are signal boxes that were a dull gray and now they have a little story to tell each of them is very unique."

Earlier this year, the city began the project that has already been successfully held in various other Central Coast communities.

During the spring, five boxes located in the downtown area around Main and Cook Streets were the first to undergo the artistic transformation.

"It was an ugly, plain box in the middle of everything that now is a huge multiple art piece," said Melissa Johnson-Barash, who painted two boxes.

Johnson-Barash, who teaches art at Righetti High School, emphasizes the importance of art within the city.

"To contribute to the beautification of the city that I love is an honor and I was super happy about it," said Johnson-Barash. "I think it really not only gives it connection for the local people to be proud of the area that they live in and it just kind of makes it homey and beautiful."

She also adds there's another important benefit to sprucing up the city.

"It creates a nicer destination for tourists with our wine industry to appreciate our gorgeous area and it says we care about it and we're dressing it up and using it to our fullest," said Johnson-Barash.

Phase 2 of the utility box contest is now being held and is open to anyone from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

"The opportunity exists now for people to turn in their application and that would tell us you are, maybe do a drawing," said van de Kamp. "All the specs are online."

Van de Kamp added all submissions will be voted by a panel of judges who are looking for ideas and subject matter that relates particularly to Santa Maria and surrounding area.

"We're looking for scenes that you might maybe scenes of Santa Maria past, present, it could strawberry fields, or the great weather," said van de Kamp. "We haven't' seen anything on the Elks Rodeo, we have car cruises, there's just so much."

Johnson-Barash agreed that artists are not lacking for inspiration.

"The ideas are endless. We've got great people, we've got industry, we have agriculture, which is huge," Johnson-Barash said.

According to van de Kamp, the next five boxes to be painted will be located on Betteravia Road.

After that, there are plans to take the project throughout the city.

"We're hoping to incorporate this larger and larger," said van de Kamp. "We're looking to get some of the major corridors where people will see these and really enjoy them and we can work our way throughout the city."

The deadline to submit an idea for the project is Friday, July 28 at 5:30 p.m.

Winning artists receive a $500 stipend and up to $250 reiumbursement for materials.

Artists interested in taking part in the utility box art project can visit www.cityofsantamaria.org/residents/box-art-project

Questions can also be directed to the Recreation and Parks Department at (805) 925-0951 ext. 2260

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