Children’s art now wraps utility boxes near every Salt Lake City elementary school

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bennion Elementary students and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski unveil the final phase of the city's ColorSLC program, on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. Artwork from each of the district's elementary schools has been used to decorate utility boxes near each school.

Salt Lake City’s 28 elementary schools have taken a big step toward making the city brighter, by wrapping their students’ art around city utility boxes.

“This is really a cool thing we’re involved in,” Mayor Jackie Biskupski told a group of students from M. Lynn Bennion Elementary School on Tuesday, the second day of the school year in the Salt Lake City School District.

The mayor helped the kids unveil Bennion’s contribution to ColorSLC, which she said is aimed at “turning bland boring utility boxes into works of art.”

(Photo courtesy Salt Lake City Mayor's Office) A utility box near Liberty Elementary School in Salt Lake City, decorated with artwork by the school's students, as part of the city's ColorSLC program.

Student art has been photographed and wrapped around 28 utility boxes, one for each elementary school in the district. In some cases, a single artwork that several children worked on was turned into a wrap. At Bennion, on 800 East, 23 pieces of art were used, and at Dilworth Elementary in Sugar House, some 150 pieces are incorporated.

In total, some 1,100 student artworks were placed on boxes, Biskupski said, making it the largest public art display in the city’s history. The city has compiled a Google map of the box locations, so people can find all 28 for themselves.

Bennion art teacher Paul Heath said the art chosen for its box were crayon drawings of stained-glass depictions of flowers — an assignment given last Mother’s Day, for the students’ moms.

Heath thought the stained-glass look would be appropriate for the utility box’s location: up 800 East from the school, in front of the 10th Ward meetinghouse for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the oldest church buildings in continuous use in the city.

Heath also teaches art at Newman Elementary, on the city’s west side. Since that school is near the Jordan River, Heath had students create art of wild animals for its utility box.

The city launched the ColorSLC program last fall, with one utility box near Rose Park Elementary on the city’s west side. Nicole O’Brien, that school’s principal, said she and the art teacher collected student art over the summer and worked with the city to create a collage for the wrap.

“It’s so fun, and it’s so positive,” O’Brien said of the response to the Rose Park box, on the corner of 1000 North and 1200 West, across the street from the school.

Before Heath got the assignment to compile artwork for the boxes at his schools, he said, he would drive past the Rose Park box on his way to Newman. “I was jealous,” Heath said. “I thought, ‘That looks cool.’”

Biskupski said the city aims to expand ColorSLC past elementary schools, to get other civic groups involved in decorating more utility boxes, “so we can experience it in all the places we call home.”

The colorful utility boxes, Biskupski said, “will become part of the fabric of our city. … The best public art becomes part of our lives.”