Old Town Temecula project takes colorful artwork to the streets

Think utility boxes and the first word that comes to mind is drab.

Thanks to local artists, those same boxes in Old Town Temecula can be described as colorful, inspiring, informative and so many other ways — but not drab.

Twenty utility boxes in the area are now wrapped with 24 original art images. The pieces were chosen in a competition that included 210 pieces of art submitted by 67 artists.

The images convey what comes to mind when one thinks of the beauty of the Temecula area, be it the wineries, hot-air balloons, the community rose garden, the history and so many other things. There’s even one from the A Chãmmakilawish Pechanga School, where kids from 3- to 10- years old contributed to a piece that depicts their fascinating culture.

Murrieta painter Roxy Rich is seen next to her artwork on a utility box in Old Town Temecula. (Courtesy of Roxy Rich)

Kai Parker is seen next to the artwork he created on a utility box in Old Town Temecula. The piece is called “Temeculand!” (Courtesy of Kai Parker)

Chloe Parker stands next to her artwork on a utility box in Old Town Temecula. Dubbed “Temeculuck,” the artwork shows water-related creatures found at the Temecula Duck Pond. (Courtesy of Chloe Parker)

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Strolling down Old Town Front Street, one box pops with multi-colored duck images. Another has orange poppies everywhere. A third has a scenic wine country vista. They’re color, color and more color. On Mercedes Street, there are the hot-air balloons found over Temecula Valley Wine Country and another with a potpourri of historical images such as the Highway 395 sign and the “They Passed This Way” monument in Old Town.

A city news release about the boxes described the art as ranging “from whimsical to landscape, from pictorial to abstract.”

So not staid utility boxes.

The project was the brainchild of city staff members Tracy Frick and Bea Barnett, who patterned it after similar projects globally, specifically one in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Each box cost $700 to $1,000 to outfit with vinyl wrap of the artwork. The project has been praised by many and may be expanded to other areas of Temecula, Frick said.

“We have received many compliments and expressions of gratitude for taking what are bland but necessary street objects, and transforming them into beautiful artwork celebrating Temecula,” she noted. “There have been a few who objected to the bright colors and modern styles without knowing the meaning of the piece, but when it is explained that each one has a Temecula-related story, most are very pleased.”

Murrieta resident Roxy Rich did “Sunset at the Villa” depicting the gorgeous view at twilight from Gershon Bacchus Vintners. She said the city’s support of local artists is impressive. Besides the recognition, artists each received $400 stipends from the city.

“I recall visiting Paris and being captivated by the murals on various buildings,” Rich said. “I would like to think this project would have the same effect on visitors.”

Any project that has an artist comparing Temecula to Paris has to be a huge success.

The winners include the father-and-daughter team of Murrieta residents Kai and Chloe Parker.

Kai’s work is called “Temeculand!” and highlights the many things to do around the city, while his daughter’s “Temeculuck” is a colorful display of the water-related creatures found at the Temecula Duck Pond.

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“When I think of Temecula, I think of the Duck Pond and a diverse and unique community,” she says. “My main goal was to create something complex, so that you could find something new in it every time you saw it.”

Chloe said she’s been drawing as long as she can remember, following in her father’s inspiring footsteps.

Besides his art, her father has great parenting advice as well: “I’ve always encouraged it, but never forced it on her, as art is a great outlet for kids, but it was important that she become the person she wanted to be and not the person I wanted her to be.”

“Yet, here we are and I never take it for granted how special it is to share this art thing with her,” he added. “This experience is like that on steroids. These boxes are like a little monument to that special bond we have.”

Reach Carl Love at [email protected]