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Traffic signal utility box art is coming to College Place

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Utility box art

The city of College Place plans to adorn its utility boxes in a similar fashion to those in other communities, such as this one in Kennewick, with the original creations of local artists.

The trend of decorative traffic utility boxes, which can be seen while driving the streets of Pasco, Kennewick, Spokane, Pullman and many other cities, is coming to College Place.

College Place City Council unanimously approved a project with credit union P1FCU and nonprofit arts organization ArtWalla that will call on local artists to submit designs for traffic utility boxes.

P1FCU has donated $8,000 to help make the project happen.

P1FCU — an abbreviation for Potlatch No. 1 Financial Credit Union — opened its first branch in the area earlier this year with a location inside the College Place Walmart.

The gesture with the utility boxes shows a commitment to the community, said Chris Loseth, the operation’s president and CEO.

“Cities in the Northwest are deterring graffiti by transforming standard utility boxes into public artworks, adding to the vibrancy of their cityscape and creating a sense of place and identity,” he said.

“We felt that this was a worthy project bringing value to the community and a sign to area residents that we care about the community that we are now serving.”

He said he started talking with City Administrator Mike Rizzitiello

in December of 2019 regarding projects and opportunities for P1FCU to assist with the potential needs for College Place and Walla Walla as it became known the company planned to enter the market.

“When P1FCU contacted me, one of the ideas I came up with and I asked them about was if they could do something similar to what occurred in Kennewick,” Rizzitiello said. “In the city of Kennewick, when the Spokane Teachers Credit Union expanded in that region, they partnered both with the city of Kennewick, and I believe the city of Pasco and their respective art commissions to do traffic box wraps.”

The boxes will be showcased at Winterfest in December, as long as the COVID-19 pandemic permits. That event falls around the time of the city’s 75th anniversary of incorporation, he said.

ArtWalla will call for artists across the community to submit designs from June to August, according to city documents.

“The idea is that they would basically submit to us either a scanned copy or a paper copy just of what kind of art proposal that they’re going to make,” he said. “We wouldn’t expect them to put it on film but we would want like a good conceptual piece.”

Once designs are in, a survey will be published online to get the public opinion and rank the art submitted.

An advisory body consisting of represenatativs from ArtWalla, as well as the city’s Park, Arbor, and Recreation Board and other community members will evaluate the art entries and survey scores.

The eight finalists will need final approval from the City Council around September or October.

The artists will get a $350 stipend and send the designs to a company to produce the traffic box wraps in late October or early November. The wraps cost $650 to produce, totaling $1,000 for each box.

The wraps last four or five years, and the material used to make them is difficult to graffiti, Rizzitiello said.

Chloe LeValley can be reached at chloelevalley@wwub.com or 509-526-8326.

Chloe LeValley covers the cities of Walla Walla and College Place as well as agriculture and the environment in the Walla Walla Valley. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University and joined the Union-Bulletin's team in October 2019.

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