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HomeNewsUtility boxes turned into pieces of public art in Yellowknife

Utility boxes turned into pieces of public art in Yellowknife

Utility boxes aren’t usually something to be excited about, but at least 11 of them in Yellowknife have been spruced up with public art, thanks to the city’s Transformer Utility Box & Street Light Box Public Art Program.

The city put out a call in April for painters, digital, mosaic and graffiti artists in an effort to add vibrancy around the city. So far, nine out of 11 boxes have been painted.

Artwork by Madeleine Tetreault.
Artwork by Madeleine Tetreault.

“The project is intended to create large visual spaces that visitors and residents can enjoy and hopefully can share through social media,” said Richard McIntosh, communications & economic development officer with the city.

Artists were selected by a five-person team comprised of people from the city, Northland Utilities, Yellowknife art community and Yellowknives Dene First Nation. In the end, every applicant was accepted, namely:

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  • Alison McCreesh
  • Courtney Chetwynd
  • Deanna Ehalt-Zawyrucha
  • Dennis Kenny
  • Diane Boudreau
  • Jessica McVicker
  • Madeleine Tetreault
  • Marc Lacharite
  • Renee Thomas
  • Robbie Craig
  • Sarah Bradfield
  • Joel Maillet

Each artist was given a $500 honorarium for the use of their artwork or photographs, plus $500 to $1,000 for painting the boxes. Artists were provided with all the necessary supplies.

The city issued some rules around submissions, including that the designs couldn’t “contain any representations of traffic lights, signs or signals.”

For Sarah Bradfield, the art project was a way to bring a little warmth to the long, cold winters.

“I just wanted to add a little summer landscape for the cold months,” said Bradfield. “So I included water and rocks and camping stuff to identify what Yellowknife has to offer in the summer.”

Artwork by Robbie Craig.
Artwork by Robbie Craig.

It wasn’t Bradfield’s first piece of public art in Yellowknife – she also painted the mural on the wall at Mildred Hall School on Franklin Avenue.

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Public art is something Bradfield hopes to see more of in the future.

“I feel like public art is always a good thing so I’m just really happy to be a part of it,” said Bradfield. “It’s a step in the right direction toward having more visible art in Yellowknife.”

Getting the art project off the ground involved the city approaching Northland Utilities, who is responsible for the utility boxes. McIntosh describes them as an “incredibly accommodating partner” in the project.

The public seems to enjoy the art additions, with hundreds of people liking the city’s photos on social media.

“It’s been overwhelmingly supportive,” said McIntosh. “We’ve been posting updates on the city’s website of the different boxes that’ve been painted and people have been very supportive of the idea.”

Going forward, city staff hope to continue the program, but that will ultimately come down to money.

McIntosh even hinted at the possibility of the initiative being expanded into other areas of town.

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“Obviously everything depends on the budget every year but we’re hopeful that this project will be expanded to all the neighbourhoods.”


The city also announced on Wednesday that a section of sidewalk on 50th Street will be painted as a pilot project in partnership with the Yellowknife Artist Run Community Centre (YKARCC).

Artist Casey Koyczan was selected to paint the section of sidewalk, which is next to the Raven’s Pub. The city hopes the pilot is popular with residents, and especially for nearby businesses.

“…we are taking the opportunity to work with YKARCC to decorate the downtown in a unique manner,” said a press release from Mayor Heyck. “It also provides an opportunity to engage with residents and creates a conversation piece in our downtown.”

You’re invited to be a part of the painting on Monday, August 29 and Wednesday, August 31 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. All equipment will be supplied. However, you’re encouraged to wear appropriate clothing for painting.


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