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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Results Are In: Measure R Passes

After a day of general anticipation and some heated races, midterm elections for 2010 have ended.

On the state level, Californians have rejected Prop 23, refusing to suspend clean air regulations that would reduce California’s carbon emissions, promote cleaner cars, and focus on renewable energy. Californians, it seems, can see right through the agendas of oil companies and recognize the importance of promoting healthy environmental practices.

However, Prop 21, which would have increased vehicle license fees in the state by $18 a year in order to raise $500 million for 278 parks in California, was rejected by voters.

On the local level, Measure R was passed in Berkeley, with 64% voter approval. Measure R sought to adopt a "green vision" for Downtown Berkeley and create a set of guidelines for future decision-making in the areas of building construction and management, land use, historic preservation, urban design, sustainability, transportation, and green standards. This is great news for Streets Alive!, especially since one of the key areas addressed in the revised plan is Streets and Open Space/Pedestrian Priority. The text for Measure states that the plan will:

"Make major enhancements and additions to sidewalks, parks, plazas, mid-block pedestrian walkways, streets, and other open space, and incorporate ecologically beneficial features and to give pedestrians priority in Downtown."

The City of Berkeley has been very supportive of Streets Alive! and the 60 Boxes Project, but the reality is that there are not always resources available to carry out projected plans. However, now that the City of Berkeley knows that its citizens are also invested in this "green vision", it only provides more incentive for the city to go forth with its plans and for us at Streets Alive! to continue revitalizing the streets and sidewalks through the 60 Boxes Project!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Updates: We Got a Grant!

We at Streets Alive! are excited to announce that the Open Circle Foundation has awarded us a grant of $8,000 to do more utility boxes! With such generous funding, we plan on creating and supporting more partnerships between local businesses and youth organizations so that together, they can design beautiful and meaningful boxes.

One such partnership that already exists is Peet's Coffee & Tea+ PG&E Teen Center+ Habitot. Peet's has agreed to sponsor two utility boxes outside of their Downtown Berkeley location and team up with the two youth organizations to come up with designs. The larger box will be allocated to the older group of kids, while the smaller box will represent the younger crowd. Such partnerships are what really make the 60 Boxes Project exciting and rewarding and we hope to establish even more now!

Thanks Open Circle Foundation!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

New 2010 Downtown Area Plan

"City Council has provided direction for a new 2010 Downtown Area Plan (DAP)..."
The Planning Commission had come up with new and additional changes to the original plan and presented it to the council. July 13 marked the meeting in which City Council voted 7-2 to put the Plan on the November ballot as "Measure R".

The details can be found here, but by the books of Streets Alive! it looks like a YES for us.
The Plan is to make Berkeley one of the greenest cities in the United States.

Hopefully our painted boxes, can correlate with this "greening" of Berkeley. We're putting forth a vision of moving forward into a sustainable way of life. The artful utility boxes, will bring sustainability to life in an inspiring visual way, with art that speaks about the natural world, working with it rather than against it, preservation, and adopting environmentally sensitive practices. All this conveyed in some art that covers utility boxes? Yes! This is the power of art, and public art at that!

Here's Info on the Downtown Area Plan:

You Help Decide, Which One Would You Rather See?

Emeryville's Utility Boxes.

If you've biked, walked, bussed, or driven through Emeryville you've more than likely noticed the bright yellow utility boxes with a "pedestrian" figure in unusual acts or formation. This collection stands out and makes a statement, and whether you love them or hate them, you notice them and they make you think!
This is what public art is for - changing the public's point of view. Art on the streets adds color, beauty, and sometimes laughs, questions, and inspiration.
I love these yellow boxes, and am definitely inspired by them. Their existence on the streets and on utility boxes inspired the entire Street's Alive team, and our own 60 Boxes Project. If Emeryville has wonderful and artful utility boxes, then why can't Berkeley?

Here's a link to the article, which describes the artist and his thought process:

Peace Out!

-Laura Mychal
Intern at Large

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All Good Things Must Come To An End...

Don't worry - I'm not talking about the 60 Boxes Project, we're still going strong! But sadly my time as an intern here at Earth Island Institute this summer is officially over. It has been so great to work on this inspiring project and I have learned a ton! Luckily there are plenty more awesome interns to keep the ball rolling (and the blog posts coming).

Thank you all for your interest in and support of this project! Keep an eye on the blog for updates - we are hoping to actually get some boxes completed soon and will be having a big 60 Boxes Project event in the next few months.

- Casey

I'm heading back to the inferior half of the state : )

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Calling all teachers and organizations working with Berkeley Youth!

You are invited to a luncheon at Earth Island Institute to discuss opportunities for students and youth to get involved in creating public art in Berkeley. Earth Island Institute is producing the "60 Boxes" project, to put art on 60 utility boxes in downtown Berkeley. All art will have the theme "Sustainability" (ecological, social, cultural, financial, physical, ETC!....)

WHERE: Earth Island Institute, located on the 4th floor the David Brower Center at 2150 Allston Way in Berkeley.
WHEN: Wednesday, August 18th
TIME: 12:00 - 1:30 pm.
WHY: Earth Island's Streets Alive! program is working on an exciting public art project and we would love to collaborate with you.

Lunch and refreshments will be provided. We hope to see you there! Please RSVP to Ariana Katovich so we know how much food and drink to order.

by phone: (510) 859-9154
BY email:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Our Amazing Printer: Magnolia Editions

So, if you have been following the project, you may already know that we are being a bit untraditional as far as the actual murals on the utility boxes. Instead of having the artists paint right on the box, they will create a design to be printed on polymer, then affixed to the box - essentially, a giant sticker (one that lasts for several years!). Magnolia Editions, a fine arts printer located in Oakland, California is making this all possible!

A bit more on Magnolia from their web site:
"Magnolia Editions is a fine art print studio in Oakland, California. We provide artists with technical expertise and access to an old-world handmade papermaking facility, etching presses, a powerful automated cutting machine, and large pigment-based electronic printing processes. For over two decades we have worked closely with artists to produce and publish print multiples, unique artist's prints, works on paper and textiles, utilizing both traditional printing methods and the most advanced digital printing and Jacquard weaving techniques...Magnolia Editions has a long tradition of working with artists to produce limited editioned prints using a wide range of processes and tools, from traditional intaglio etching techniques to the latest digital technologies."

We are so excited to work with them on the 60 Boxes Project! And seriously, check them out - they are so friendly, not to mention talented!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Public Art in Hayward

Today, the 60 Boxes team took a little trip to Hayward to check out their amazing public art. In addition to painted utility boxes, Hayward has several murals painted by local artists. For all of us in Berkeley, it was great to see these examples of "finished products" - they really did brighten up the area and have been hugely successful in reducing graffiti. Here are just some of the utility boxes and murals we saw:

Turtle utility box! So clever.

We loved this mosaic-style fish box!

Nice context with the cranes and the Japanese Restaurant

This is actually not a utility box - it's a drop box for books at the library!

Murals in an alleyway depicting Hayward "back in the day."

Not just a mural but a map of downtown Hayward, too! So cool.

If you get the chance, visit Hayward and see even more great public art! We can only hope that someday our downtown looks as cool as theirs!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Welcome to the 60 Boxes Project

The 60 Boxes project, an initiative of the Streets Alive! Program at Earth Island Institute, combines and promotes art and nature in Downtown Berkeley. The project will work with artists, businesses, and community members to bring vibrant art to unexpected places: 60 utility boxes in Downtown Berkeley, all currently painted grey. Local artists will paint each box following the theme "Sustainability," creating public art and resonating with themes important to Berkeley. Earth Island Institute will commission artists to paint ten boxes each fiscal year, with final design approval from the Berkeley Arts Commission.

Currently, the City of Berkeley faces a severe budget deficit of 14.6 million dollars, leaving art and culture projects unfunded. The downtown area is plagued in some places by blight and graffiti. Many cities, including Berkeley, spend thousands of dollars on graffiti related violations each year - the City of Hayward estimated that in the past year, they spent $800,000. A federal study found that 92-95% of mural art is not tagged with graffiti, and as proof of this, Hayward saved $40,000 in graffiti abatement costs in the first year of their mural and utility box art program. We anticipate similar savings through the 60 Boxes project in Berkeley, and hope that the money saved can be channeled back into city-sponsored art initiatives.

The 60 Boxes project will also serve as a creative outlet for the community, allowing local artists to express themselves and fostering a sense of community empowerment and civic pride for Berkeley. In that same vein, the project will help eliminate blight and promote beautification, create job opportunities for artists, and serve as an innovative way for local businesses and organizations to promote themselves as sponsors of the project. Short on financial resources but high on creativity and inspiration, Berkeley would benefit from an effort that harnesses community capital to beautify its public spaces and improve the urban experience.