Vandals target artists’ work on Berkeley utility boxes

The “Redwood” artwork by artist Ryan Kerrigan was torn off this utility box at Allston and Shattuck

Two utility boxes in downtown Berkeley, decorated by artists as part of the city’s Streets Alive initiative, were vandalized over the weekend.

One of the boxes, on Allston and Shattuck, whose artwork was unveiled a year ago this month, had two sides almost completely ripped off. The letters “FLIGO” were also inscribed at the top of the box, on the east-facing side, according to Christina Monzer, Restorations Project Associate at Streets Alive. The design, titled “Redwood,” is by artist Ryan Kerrigan who is known for his rock poster art. It is sponsored by the Earth Island Institute.

The other vandalized box was recently installed at Kittredge and Shattuck outside of Peet’s coffee shop, which sponsored the artwork. Two panels were removed from the box. The artwork, titled “Cup to Cup,” was created by Amelia McCrea, Jamine Hain, Alaytra Johnson, and Lilian Zakki Manahl of Berkeley’s YMCA-PG&E Teen Center, and unveiled on Oct. 2.

Utility boxes at Kittredge and Shattuck before the vandalism (left) and after (right)

“We’ve had a good streak with virtually no vandalism happening in recent months, and it is very unfortunate that this happened over the weekend,” Monzer said.  “We are working to get them repaired.”

Streets Alive, a collaboration between the Earth Island Institute and Berkeley’s Civic Arts Commission has so far helped to transform 17 of 60 selected boxes, which are owned either by the city or by PG&E. The project pairs patrons with artists who paint the boxes or make a design that can be transferred to large, polymer stickers and be affixed to them.

BUSD to spend Lonely Island’s $250K on theater programs [06.02.12]
City project will transform utility boxes with vibrant art [06.22.11]

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  • John Holland

    First yarnbombing and now this!

  • Biker 94703

    Perhaps the unknown art critic is suggesting that art should be rotated in order to keep it fresh?

  • Guest

    I LOVE the painted utility boxes.  I lived briefly in another city that had them and was thrilled when I came back to Berkeley and saw them starting to pop up here!  Really hope this vandalism doesn’t deter the project too much, because I smile every time I walk by one of the painted boxes.

  • Dan Woloz

    Sad. Constantly I feel like those of us who try to do good for the neighborhood/city/world are spit on by those who are  filled with some kind of angst. I’ve had my efforts destroyed in a similar manner and don’t have much motivation any more.

  • anon

    This is a really great idea!

  • David

    Isn’t it wierd how very much some people don’t want Berkeley to get nicer?

  • TBF

    As long as there is something placed outside that is asthetically pleasing, of value, worthy of praise, and/or that brings joy into the community, there will be those that sadistically enjoy vandalizing (or stealing) said elements.  The trick is to keep moving forward / to show those that vandalize that we as a community are resilient.  If there is something to learn from this it would be to identify if there is a means to make possible future acts of vandalism less likely to be successful (perhaps not, but just a thought). 

  • I witnessed the vandalism happening for the box in front of Peet’s coffee in downtown. It was by what looked to be a homeless youth that I had been noticing around town for several weeks. She looked to be underage and on drugs. I called Berkeley PD and reported it while it was happening.  Hopefully they have found the girl and she is getting help.

  • guest

    And some will call it “freedom of expression”.

  • EarlyMorningCoffee

     Only they’re not painted. They’re wrapped in plastic.

  • The Sharkey

    “Hey, man, her rights to be, like, a sidewalk-sitting art critic need to be protected, man!”

  • guest

    “I witnessed the vandalism happening for the box in front of Peet’s
    coffee in downtown. It was by what looked to be a homeless youth…who looked to be
    underage and on drugs and who hopefully is getting help.”

    What a coincidence.  Just this morning I was was pondering the profile of the perfect art critic and this is exactly the person that I envisioned!

  • Guestfactorial

    You can’t go wrong with gray, beige, and off-white.  Utility boxes don’t need to call attention to themselves.