Thinking out of the box

The Utility Wrap Program is a project by the Langley Arts Fund to beautify utility boxes.

Residents might feel a pair of red beady eyes staring at them as they stroll along Second Street in Langley. However, upon closer inspection, Susan Jensen’s “Langley Bunnies” might elicit a smile.

“Langley Bunnies” is part of the Utility Wrap Program, a project by the Langley Arts Fund to add more color to Langley by using an unconventional canvas: utility boxes.

Bruce Hanson, who serves as the nonprofit group’s public relations and marketing person, said the project began two years ago, when the group announced a call for local artists who were interested in contributing to the initiative with their creativity.

Thus far, there are six embellished utility boxes around town. The first one, “Yellow Roses” by Kay Parsons, was placed in 2020 and is located on Second Street in front of Sweet Mona’s. The second is Kathy Lull’s “Sunset,” located at Third Street and Park Avenue.

The recent additions include artworks with subject matters that were chosen freely by their authors: a collection of numerous whimsical owls which artist Janie Cribbs aptly titled “Owls,” located at the corner of Camano Avenue and Edgecliff Drive and across from the Whidbey Children’s Theatre; a Puget Sound beach scene — with a miniature planet Earth as a guest star — titled “Between Tides,” created by Rob Schouten and located in front of Callahan’s glass shop on Second Street; Amanda Fisher’s “Botanical,” which is a colorful representation of the area’s flora located between Langley Park and the Spyhop Pub; and last but not least, Jensen’s semi-realistic bunny headshot.

Hanson said utility boxes are normally seen for their functional purpose and look plain, but the project has been receiving positive responses, motivating the fund to plan for more utility box art. The utility boxes belong to Whidbey Telecom, which agreed to be part of the project, while the art was created by printing the artists’ work onto adhesive sheets that wrap around the box — printed by Humphrey Sign Company. Some residents, Hanson said, are even asking for their own utility boxes to be decorated.

According to Hanson, both the artists and the printer were compensated for their work.

The Langley Arts Fund is also holding an art show that would help fund more utility box art. Don Wodjenski, who has been putting the event together, said the exhibit will showcase a broad range of photos, paintings and sculptures from members of the Whidbey Island Arts Council. He said 60% of the proceeds will go to the artists while the rest will be used to fund projects like the Utility Wrap Program.

The art show kicks off Friday, Oct. 20 and runs between 5 to 7 p.m., and will continue from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday Oct. 21-22, taking place at 4632 S. Tomkins Road in Langley.

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“Langley Bunnies” by Susan Jensen. (Photo provided)

“Langley Bunnies” by Susan Jensen. (Photo provided)

“Owls” by Janie Cribbs. (Photo provided)

“Owls” by Janie Cribbs. (Photo provided)