By Billy Tuite —
Remember those boring, gray utility boxes that were scattered around campus and downtown Menomonie? You probably glanced right over them due to their drab appearance. Fortunately, those dull boxes became much more pleasing to the eye over the summer thanks to the Menomonie Arts Power Project.
Former Executive Director of Main Street Menomonie Joanie Dulin managed the project, which consisted of eight utility boxes throughout Menomonie getting turned into public works of art by various artists in the area. The paintings began in the middle of May and were completed in late August.
Utility boxes may seem like a strange choice of canvas. However, according to Dulin, it’s exactly this dull nature that makes them great artistic venues, as the boxes had already attracted more crude forms of art, like stickers and graffiti.
“They’re just boring looking canvases waiting to be painted on,” Dulin said.
Dulin borrowed the idea for the project from other communities around the country and found that it could be more than just a neat activity.
“I spoke to other people that had done them in their towns and they say the public art deters graffiti,” Dulin said. “We were excited to hear that.”
The artists were selected in April based on renderings they submitted to a Main Street Menomonie committee that chose which ones to assign to select boxes. The Community Foundation of Dunn County helped with funding for the artists’ equipment.
“All of the artists have their own unique style, and I think that’s the cool part of the project,” Dulin said.
This artistic diversity is clearly on display. Local artist Samantha Amdall painted a delightful peace-themed box on the corner of South Broadway and Sixth Avenue, while Jake Schindler, an artist diagnosed with autism, made a more colorful, abstract piece out of the box on the corner of Main Street and Crescent Street.
Some of the boxes feature art related to Menomonie’s landmarks and history. One of the boxes by the University of Wisconsin–Stout Administration Building, painted by UW–Stout student Megan Beck, pays homage to the iconic clock tower. Another across the lake bank, was painted by UW–Stout alumnus Marc Anderson and represents Menomonie’s logging background.
“I think we’ll definitely be continuing with public art,” Dulin said optimistically about the future of this and other projects. “It’s definitely something the community enjoys.”
For more information on the Menomonie Arts Power Project and a full map of the painted utility boxes, visit the project page on the Main Street of Menomonie’s website at www.mainstreetmenomonie.org/menomonie-arts-power-project/