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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.