Portland hires artists to utilize their talent

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PORTLAND — South Portland resident Kerrin Parkinson took her art to the streets on Aug. 5.

“It was just this black, ugly thing,” she said of the utility box she was painting in Congress Square.

Parkinson is the first artist to get to work in the Painting Outside the Box program to redecorate utility boxes throughout the city.

Working largely in purple and pale blue, with splashes of green, Parkinson restyled the 6-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide box near the corner of Congress and High streets into a scene celebrating the city skyline with a sunset and moon rise.

A plein-air painter of outdoor landscapes, Parkinson is one of five artists receiving $300 stipends from the Portland Public Art Committee to repaint utility boxes.

City Transportation Systems Engineer Jeremiah Bartlett said Tuesday the boxes contain “wiring, control units, and other related hardware for circuits and traffic signal detection and control.”

In a press release, city Neighborhood Prosecutor Richard Bianculli said the Portland Police Department is co-sponsoring the effort, and the stipends were funded through contributions from NBT Bank and Port Property Management.

On Tuesday, Aug. 9, painter Katey Carnahan was scheduled to begin painting the utility box at Cumberland Avenue and Franklin Street. On Monday, Aug. 15, Jared Goulette is scheduled to begin painting the utility box at Cumberland Avenue and High Street.

Alicia Uth and Michael Lewis will be painting utility boxes at Woodfords Street and Stevens Avenue, and Middle and Pearl streets, respectively, on dates not yet determined, Bianculli said.

Parkinson said she did not know which box she would be assigned when she submitted her designs last month.

She began by cleaning the box before taping over hinges, locks, handles and vents and priming the surface. She used acrylic paint over the oil-based primer and would add a shellac to protect the paint against the elements.

“When I saw (the bare box), I said anything will be better than that,” Parkinson said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

South Portland resident Kerrin Parkinson paints a utility box Aug. 5 in Portland’s Congress Square. “It was just this black, ugly thing when I started,” she said.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.