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Paint the town — or at least Lodi’s utility boxes

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Posted: Friday, July 12, 2013 7:45 am

Instead of a drab beige, five large boxes situated along busy Lodi intersections have gotten a makeover.

Now, roosters stretch out to crow on a box at Reynolds Ranch Parkway, while dramatic faces greet drivers and walkers on the corner of Cherokee and Pine Streets. A collage of Lodi Lake motifs beautifies the street for Mills Avenue traffic near Turner Road, and koi fish swim sinuously on Hale Road and Cherokee Lane. Along Lower Sacramento Road, near Lodi Avenue, a wine themed design graces another box.

These are the eye catching results of the traffic signal control box art project, paid for by the Art in Public Places fund. The idea picked up momentum in February, when the Art Advisory Board brought the idea forward after seeing similar projects in other California cities.

During the spring, three artists were given $100 per box for materials and their time and set to work. Plastic dropcloths were taped around the base to protect the sidewalk. Artists painted outdoors, in full view of the public, using paints donated by Kelly Moore paints.

All those hours of hard work have created five pieces of great art for the public, said Deanie Bridewell, arts and events coordinator for the City of Lodi.

“What I love is that the murals are so varied, that each artist put their own stamp on it,” she said.

The process was not without challenges. Painting outside in summertime means overheated artists and hot surfaces causing paint to dry very quickly.

In this first round, only three artists applied to participate. But that shouldn’t be a problem anymore.

“People will have seen the project and have a better idea of what we mean,” she said.

Bridewell has received several calls from artists, seeking a chance to paint a box in the next round.

Five more boxes will be painted this fall, with another batch set up for spring.

Artist Patti Wallace, who works as an art therapist, painted three designs throughout Lodi’s Eastside. She spent about 25 hours on each one.

“It was neat to work in a different part of the city. So many people walk the neighborhoods there, and they all seemed very happy to have something pretty there,” she said.

There was one instance of vandalism on Wallace’s Pine Street design, but it was repaired before the painting had begun.

Brittany Pudwell and Dario Gonzales teamed up to paint two boxes, when their submitted design was just for one. They split up the Lodi Lake elements from the wine culture elements and added more details to fill it out. They spent about 30 hours a piece on each box. The challenging part was laying out the design in grid format to translate it to the bulky boxes.

Gonzales called the work a labor of love.

“It’s one of the coolest art projects I’ve done to date. Having the opportunity to share our Lodi and how we see it and love it was awesome,” he said.

As the team worked in the sunshine, some drivers stopped and sent their kids out to hand the artists a cold drink.

“People will see these boxes for a while. Maybe some of those kids who saw us painting them will remember them for years,” said Pudwell.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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