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.