Could unsightly utility boxes scattered throughout the Village of Oak Park soon get a face-lift, by way of a smattering of paint and a fancy design?

Some leaders in the Oak Park business community are suggesting a public art project, as a way to beautify the cabinets dotting village streets. Other municipal governments, such as the City of Los Angeles, have already used art as a way to disguise the intrusive boxes.

The Oak Park Area Convention and Visitors Bureau identified painting utility boxes as a possible way to show off Oak Park’s brand and image. The idea was suggested in a branding study that the bureau had commissioned last year, said Rich Carollo, president of the bureau.

Carollo suggested that some utility boxes could be used for functions other than holding a bunch of cables – such as to display maps or directions to assist tourists.

“To use them as a tourism signage or education element would work, as well as any other applications that would take away from them being the boring, obtrusive silver things that they are,” Carollo said.

He specifically pointed to one utility box, at the northwest corner of Lake and Forest, just south of a residential street lined with historic homes and tourism magnets. Carollo said the program could be handled by local business districts, similar to a past effort in the Oak Park Arts District, sprucing up public benches.

Pat Zubak, executive director of the Downtown Oak Park Business Association, heard about the idea of painting utility boxes from a friend in Springfield. And through an e-mail to the Business and Civic Council of Oak Park, she suggested that the village explore a similar effort.

No formal proposals have been made to the village. The idea is its infant stages. But Zubak says there has been some initial interest from the arts district.

“It’s kind of an easy, fun idea,” Zubak said. “We certainly have artists in Oak Park, and we certainly have utility boxes in Oak Park.”

-Marty Stempniak

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