The Story Behind the Avenue Concept’s Painted Utility Boxes in Providence
Artists of color were commissioned to paint utility boxes on the South Side and downtown.
Public art finds a canvas in the most unexpected places. The Avenue Concept’s Providence Utility Box Project, made possible in part by a Rhode Island Foundation Community Grant, features utility boxes painted by emerging local Black, Indigenous and People of Color and/or female-identifying artists in Upper South Providence and downtown. Student artists from ArTwerk, an interdisciplinary advanced design studio at RISD, also painted four more boxes at the base of College Hill, and artists Forrest Curl, Kobe Jackson and Rene Gomez painted three additional utility boxes in Biltmore Park this summer.
1. Sara Breslin, “Ostara”
Founding volunteer artist in the “Beyond the Diagnosis” exhibition, Sara Breslin painted a design that pays homage to the Pagan holiday Ostara, which celebrates the spring equinox. The work consists of a portrait of a woman surrounded by flowers and butterflies while a mane of leaves frames her face. “Represented in the center of the mural is the Anglo Saxon goddess of Spring, Estara, for which Ostara is named. Spring is an amazing season and by far the most powerful of all four. It arrives to pull us from the darkness of winter and will warmth and life back into our lives,” Breslin says. “Spring is a moment of rebirth that vibrates through every fiber of our world. It is the bridge from dark and light. After more than a year of change, darkness, dread and death, I welcome and am inspired by the power of spring. To embrace change, give new beginnings and help us all to find the strength to rise up.”
2. Arthur Cayo, “City Life Utility Boxer”
Arthur Cayo started painting heart murals on boarded-up buildings in the summer of 2020. For Cayo, art is an outlet to release energy in a positive way. The utility box he painted contains two pictures: one of a skateboarder performing a trick and the other of two people hugging in a dark space.
3. Keira Gonsalves, Untitled
Keira Gonsalves attends the University of Rhode Island pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fine arts while also running her small art business, Stone Soup. Her body of work contains themes of pain and healing, juxtaposing the positive experiences surrounding healing and the reality of a painful transformation. Gonsalves’s utility box consists of a portrait on one side and a flower on the other.