More art for Concord as city gears up for third round of utility box painting

More art for Concord as city gears up for third round of utility box painting

More art for Concord as city gears up for third round of utility box painting
Renaye Johnson paints an image of the Concord Pavilion for the “Families Through Time” utility box. She created the design with Thea Jue. (John Nakanishi photo)

John NakanishiCONCORD, CA (August 22, 2022) — The artistically painted utility boxes on downtown Concord street corners began as a pipe dream in 2018 by a group of artists from the Concord Art Association (CAA).

Then CAA president Catherine Hensiek presented the idea to the City Council that same year. Who could have imagined the project would still be going strong in 2022?

We have completed two phases of the Utility Box Art Project, and planning for the third phase is underway.

In Phase I, nine utility boxes illustrated the theme “Music and Market” in 2019. As residents expressed appreciation for the new public artwork, CAA got the go-ahead to launch Phase II. With the theme “Celebrate Concord,” seven more beautifully painted utility boxes appeared downtown in 2021.

CAA is gearing up for Phase III, using the theme “Concord Reflections.” The city is expanding the artwork beyond downtown to highly visible corners on Monument Boulevard, Clayton Road, Farm Bureau Road, Kirker Pass Road, Willow Pass Road and other major streets.
But with major supply-chain disruptions causing frustrating, the “call for artists” deadline is extending to September 2022 and painting is likely to begin next year.

Music and history

Renaye Johnson and Thea Jue were involved in the first two phases and have already submitted their design to paint a third utility box.

Their Phase I box, “String Quartet,” is at the corner of Grant and Salvio streets. Inspired by the music at Todos Santos Plaza, they implemented bright colors and included musical instruments and a message of peace. For Phase II, Johnson and Jue painted “Families Through Time” at the corner of Galindo Street and Concord Boulevard. Each side of this box depicts different points in Concord’s history: a scene from a Miwok village, the Don Salvio Pacheco home, a farmhouse from the 1900s and an impression of the present-day Concord Pavilion.

For each phase, their first step was to brainstorm ideas that went along with the theme and create a series of sketches. Once satisfied with the overall look, they sketched out their final drawings on 11-inch by 14-inch canvas and practiced painting.

Next, they sketched the design on a large piece of paper in the actual size. They then transferred the sketch onto the utility box for the final painting.

Artistic challenges

They realized that the actual painting presented physical challenges, as the work must be done outside. Jue explained how the hot summer sun heated the metal box to extreme temperatures, creating a hands-off “canvas.”

“We had to deal with the heat, kneeling on the ground and the temperature of the day,” Jue said.

“The actual painting is fun because we received a lot of encouragement from people walking by,” Johnson added. “And the finished product is fun to share with friends, family and people visiting Concord.”

CAA continues to receive applications from area artists who hope to be selected to paint one of the available Phase III boxes. Eligible artists must live in the Contra Costa County area. For more information, visit

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John Nakanishi
John Nakanishi

John Nakanishi is treasurer of The Concord Art Association. He is an acrylic painter and a ceramic artist. When John isn’t creating art, he coaches soccer for East Bay Eclipse, a competitive soccer club based in Moraga. He is also an avid trail runner, enjoying runs from 5 miles to 50K.