Martinez beautification with public art

MARTINEZ, Calif. – The Parks, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission approved a Call for Artists/Request for Proposals to identify an artist, or artists to beautify city electrical utility boxes. The Request will be officially released on Oct. 21, 2019.

The expression is, “When you get lemons, make lemonade.” That is just what is happening in Martinez public spaces. The city has a number of rather unattractive electrical boxes in plain view, and some extremely obvious vacant buildings on Main Street. Some might describe both as visual lemons in terms of civic appearance.

While the city is working of improving the appearance of the utility boxes, a a grassroots effort, led by Vice-Mayor Noralea Gipner, could transform boarded buildings into a public gallery.

The City of Martinez is launching a pilot program to have boxes in major corridors turned into attractive and captivating works of art. The deadline for submission of proposals is Dec. 4, 2019.

Utility Boxes

The first boxes chosen are large and highly visible on major thoroughfares: Downtown at Marina Vista Ave. and Las juntas, on Alhambra Ave,. at F and K Streets and at the Virginia Hills Shopping Center at Alhambra and Paseo Nogal Road.

The artists need not be Martinez residents, and the method of beautification is vinyl-wrap. That means they can use already created artwork for the project. It also allows a wider variety of artists to submit work. Non-muralist work, watercolors, acrylics, tile or any kind of work that can be photographed and reproduced in vinyl will be accepted.

The vinyl material was also selected because it is safer for artists not to do their work on the street, and if it is damaged, it can be replaced.

There are other practical reasons for there PRMCC’s choice of the vinyl wrap. It cuts down on the box-surface preparation and it is graffiti-resistant.

Artists are asked to submit samples of their work and conceptual designs for the project. The city will pay $750 for artistic beautification of each box. They may choose one artist to do all of the boxes, or four different artists, or any combination of artists depending on the submissions received.

City staff will accept the submissions and review them for completeness. Next, the Cultural and Arts Sub-committee of the PRMCC will evaluate the conceptual designs and make recommendations to the PRMCC, which will then do the same for the city council.

After signing an agreement, the chosen artist will work with the PRMCC to transform their conceptual designs into final artwork, and that will go the city council for approval. According to Zack Seal’s report, it is expected to take two weeks from approval, to have make the vinyl and have it applied to the boxes.The target date for completion is May of 2020. If the public is pleased with the beautification and all goes well, it more boxes may be beautified in the future.

Boarded buildings

“This is a private project,” Vice Mayor Gipner said. “The owners of the Hilson’s and Bank of America spaces agreed to let us paint the boards that are in the windows of those vacant buildings.”

As a sign of respect, Gipner made a presentation at the same Oct. 15 PRMCC meeting. “I just wanted to let them know what we were doing before we did it, and to make sure they know it is not a city project,” she explained later.

Gipner has already recruited a number of local artists who are willing to beautify the boards that now fill the windows of those weather prominent buildings. It is a quick, informal effort to bring life and color to the neighborhood she said.

Dorrie Langley, Kathy Riggs, and Lorena Castillo are among the local artists who have agreed to lend their artistic talents to beautify Martinez. “We would be happy to have more artists and any other help we can get,” Gipner remarked.

The paints will come from the Recovery Center (Central Contra Costa Sanitary Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility) at no cost and Ace Hardware has agreed to donate paints, according to Gipner.

“I don’t know where we will find brushes and other things,” but I’m sure we can do this,” she commented.

The painted boards will be removed when the spaces are rented, but there is already interest in placing them elsewhere or selling them to benefit a good cause. Contact Vice Mayor Noralea Gipner at 925-324-3393 to contribute to this beautification project.

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