Utility Boxes Along Ingleside's Ocean Avenue Are Getting Makeovers

The neighborhood’s utility cabinets are getting revamped with help from city funds and young artists.

Painted utility boxes.
The two utility boxes at Ocean and Plymouth avenues have a new look. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

Several of Ocean Avenue’s utility boxes are getting new looks.

A set of graffiti-prone utility boxes in front of Ocean Wash Dry & Coin Laundry and Go Go 7 have been revamped with floral designs by San Francisco-based visual artist Mike Ritch and roughly five volunteers and a mural teacher from Youth Art Exchange.

“There’s a lot of talented kids in San Francisco that would love to have opportunities to work on public art projects that are outside of something in a school setting,” Ritch said. “This is something that, hopefully, everyone can get behind to encourage the working artist of tomorrow.”

Both boxes were adorned with hand-painted ice plants, the kind found at Ocean Beach and throughout the California coast, in shades of pink, green and yellow against a tan-beige background. It will also be sealed in a vinyl varnish to help protect it against weather and graffiti.

Youth Art Exchange, or YAX, is a nonprofit organization that creates a shared practice for professional artists and public high school students and encourages youth to be future leaders, thinkers and artists in San Francisco.

In addition to this project, YAX plans to revitalize other utility boxes along Ocean Avenue by the end of the year with assistance from the Ocean Avenue Association and District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar’s office. The project will be similar to their Ocean Bloom Interdisciplinary Utility Box Mural project from 2018.

Emma Heiken, Melgar’s aide, said both projects were split between two Art Commission grants with $24,950 going towards Ritch’s project and $75,000 going toward YAX’s upcoming project, which uses the Tides Center as a fiscal sponsor.

YAX’s Director of Development and Communications Reed Davaz McGowan said she finds these projects to be an incredible way for people in the neighborhood to interact with art in accessible ways while they travel through the area.

“It’s something that’s really special to be able to create these small-scale murals on something that people often overlook or see as a disruption to the landscape with these utility boxes that people don’t even think about,” McGowan said. It’s special that we get to work in partnership with the Ocean Avenue Association and artists and the city to be able to make these things possible.”

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