art project

(Dec. 11, 2020) Another utility box has been painted in downtown Ocean City as part of the Ocean City Development Corporation’s Public Art Program.

The utility box program began 16 years ago, and is a collaborative effort between the corporation, the Art League of Ocean City and Delmarva Power.

“Back in 2004 we partnered with the Art League of Ocean to do the first 10 utility boxes,” Corporation Executive Director Glenn Irwin said.

The large, gray utility boxes occupy most street corners in downtown Ocean City, as a result of burying utilities.

While saving the streets of downtown from swaths of large poles and wires, the boxes remain an unflattering sight to see.

“Sometimes they would get graffiti them too, because they’re big, blank boxes,” Irwin said.

The utility box program’s intent was twofold — beautify the downtown area and eliminate space for graffiti.

“It’s worked out very well for both,” Irwin said. “People love the utility box paintings. I get calls regularly from other jurisdictions to see how we do the program, how we get approval, and we were really fortunate to work so closely with Delmarva Power to do so.”

Irwin said Delmarva Power was an anomaly in allowing the boxes to be painted.

“We constantly look for opportunities to work with our local partners on initiatives that are useful and beneficial to our customers and the communities we serve,” Delmarva Power spokesperson Timothy Stokes said. “We see this as a great way to promote local art and artists in the area while also promoting the further beautification of an already visually appealing city.”

Since its inception in 2004, 35 or so boxes have been painted not only in downtown Ocean City, but all over the resort.

Irwin said the corporation oversees boxes from 17th Street and south, while the Art League handles other locations.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the Art League of Ocean City in this program,” Irwin said. “Their volunteer artists and their project coordinator, Jody Veader, painted the first 10 utility boxes under this program starting in 2004. The Art League provided a group of dedicated volunteer artists with various levels of artistic ability and it worked out great.”

Box paintings are funded through sponsors, Irwin said, and typically cost $500. Sponsors are honored with a plaque that is placed on the box.

Irwin said PPG Paints on Eighth Street and the local Sherwin Williams Paints in north Ocean City have donated paint and paint supplies to the program.

There are some rules artists must follow, such as no commercial signage, they must use their own brushes and the painting must be Ocean City or Eastern Shore themed.

The corporation prepares the boxes by wiping and drying it, before covering it with two layers of latex paint or primer.

The artist is then free to take work on the box based on his or her schedule, which means final paintings can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks.

Irwin said the longevity of a painting is roughly 10 years.

“One of our projects we hope to do for the summer of 2021 is to do a walking tour brochure of our painted utility boxes so people can see where they are and who did them,” Irwin said.

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