H-SAN LUIS OBISPO

Nov 14, 2012 8:53 PM by Connie Tran, KSBY News

Contention over utility art box in Downtown historical area

You may have seen some of the new art pieces around Downtown San Luis Obispo. They're painted utility boxes, and they're adding a splash of color to each corner they're on. But, not every resident is happy about these new creations.

Concerned SLO resident, Peg Pinard, said the utility box fixed on the southeast corner of Broad and Pismo Streets, is too drastic of a juxtaposition with the homes that are around it. Many of the houses in the area are Victorian and Spanish-style, while the utility box is a painted in a modern style with bright colors. Pinard said she would have liked to have seen a historical related painting on the box, considering the utility box and the houses around it are in a historical area. But, she said she's most disappointed that the City allegedly did not follow the General Plan and involve the residents.

Pinard said, "I didn't know about it, none of my neighbors knew about it, so one of the problems for the City is that when it says it got 'a lot of public input', maybe indeed it does. But not from the people directly affected."

But, Shannon Bates, the Rec and Public Art Manager for the City's Park and Recreation Department said the city went through a lengthy process of choosing the locations and the art pieces, and that included a lot of community input.

"We convene a public art jury, which mandated by public art policy, has to consist of a certain makeup. So we have to have residents or business owners, people that live and work in the area in which the art will be installed," said Bates.

Bates also said the Park and Rec staff do their best, based on what the public art jury has chosen, to fit the pieces to the most appropriate location. But, she said not all art pieces are relevant to a location.

Many who live around Broad and Pismo Streets said they weren't bothered by the art work on the utility box, and admired the vast difference between the homes and box.

Wesley Azzouz, a San Luis Obispo resident, said, "the style of house I live in is Spanish Revival, so I wouldn't necessarily say this matches Spanish Revival, but you can juxtapose modern and traditional, and I think it looks nice."

The artist of the box on Broad and Pismo Streets, Alister Dippner, said the inspiration for his painting were the very things he noticed all the time in SLO. He said since moving here, he's admired the deer, the nature, and the bicyclists.

Bates said art is all about conversation, and she understands that two peple will look at an art piece and see two completely different things. She adds that having the paintings has been a blessing at offsetting the graffiti around Downtown, and there has been an overwhelming amount of support from the community on the art box project.

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