Art-wrapped utility boxes brighten up old town Temecula weighs

TEMECULA, Calif. — Metal utility boxes in Old Town Temecula have been transformed with artists’ images into an off-the-wall art experience. It’s an effort to beautify public spaces and showcase “all things Temecula.”

Across California, cities are finding ways to integrate the arts. One unique method is to transform the inevitable and unsightly metal aid boxes into three-dimensional works of art.

In Temecula, 20 utility boxes are now decorated with 24 original images featuring the work of local artists. Images run the gamut from bright orange California poppies (the state flower) to hot air balloons, wine bottles, oak trees and local themes in between.

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A map showing the art and locations along Mercedes Street and Old Town Front Street is available for download on the city’s website.

According to a city spokesman, each painting was chosen with the theme of “building greatness, sustaining excellence.”

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Each artist received a $400 stipend for the use of their work.

Mayor Pro Tem Zak Schwank, who serves on the Arts and Cultural Affairs Subcommittee, shared about the project.

“I’m excited to see this creative idea come to life, expanding our vision for more public art in Temecula,” Schwank said. “It’s amazing to see the beauty, history and vibrancy of Temecula represented on simple but necessary utility boxes. We hope to see more public art expand throughout our city.”

The city selected works that “tell the story of Temecula’s rich history.”

Merc, by Barbara Nelson

There are realistic depictions of the main gate of the Old Town, the hills of the wine country, the Heritage Rose Garden, the cowboys and the Merc. Other images wink at the Pechanga Band of Mission Indians, and one was completed by students from Chammakilawish Pechanga School.

Artist Lisa Cabrera’s painting “All Things Temecula” was selected and is now located at Old Town Front Street and Santiago Road. She talks to Patch a bit about the process.

“All Things Temecula” Utility Box Wrap by artist Lisa Cabrera. Photo: Courtesy of Lisa Cabrera

“The piece is a tribute to the aspects of Temecula that have taken root (shown by the branching oak tree) and what it is known for: vineyard wine, Old West history, hot air ballooning, golf, rolling sights, views to the sunset, and climate,” Cabrera said of his work, a representation of those elements that now stand at the entrance to the Old Town.

Cabrera believes the outdoor gallery of packed aid boxes makes for an attractive destination that includes the local art community.

“It’s a great way to tap into what local creatives are already a part of, looking for and studying,” she said.

Temecula residents weigh in on the Utility Box art project

In a recent Patch Neighborhood post, residents both questioned and defended the artistic purpose of such an endeavor.

RL started the conversation on Patch Neighbor Posts by writing “What’s up with the hideous art in Old Town?”

The question prompted nearly 20 responses from those who support the toolbox project and others who either dislike or don’t understand the intent.

“What may be ugly or disgusting to you may be beautiful to someone else,” writes Julie Naber. “Art come(s) in many different styles, shapes, forms and meaning. You know the saying… beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So keep your options to yourself or create your own art to display.”

Others had not yet heard of the project.

“Do you have any pictures to post?” Cindy wrote. “Old town is turning into trash with all the loud dive bars and drag shows!!!”

Sunset at the Villa, Roxy Rich: an original oil landscape depicting the view from the patio of Gershon Bacchus Vineyards at dusk with rolling hills and vineyards. The piece was on display in Milan at the MADS Gallery (Exhibition for Augmented Reality) from April 29th to May 4th.

As the conversation on the Patch Neighbor Post turned sideways, from the political to the personal, Rachel S. Karno and Tracy Johnson shared what they love about the painted boxes.

“I think they’re fun and colorful,” Carnot said. “I’m an artist, I paint realistic things that almost no one appreciates.”

Another neighbor suggested that someone who might be opposed to the public display of art should show appreciation for the courage and creativity of others while also exploring more deeply their own response to artwork.

“Better questions, not for the community but for yourself, might include, ‘Why don’t I like this art?’ Why this strong reaction?” KMarie wrote. “Consider that other people may have a completely different experience of seeing art than you do. And while it’s normal to want to seek out others who share the same opinion, it can actually be much more valuable to understand how someone else might see it differently than you do. Go deeper and open yourself to understanding. Also, remember that people created the art and that it takes a lot of courage to show that art and be vulnerable to criticism. Ask yourself how you would feel if someone said something you put in the time and effort was “disgusting”.

Overall, a lot more pitched in to support the artist-wrapped help boxes. Love them or not, KMarie encourages viewers to see it that way. “Art is subjective. Open your mind. It’s easy to be a critic. Don’t be a fool.”

Learn more about the Temecula Utility Box Art Project online at

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