Small pieces of public art go a long way. Whereas a childish drawing of a penis on a Realtor's cheek can ruin a perfectly good bus bench, splashes of well-made art can turn an ordinary public object into a thing of beauty that encourages civic pride.

Utility boxes, for example, have become a popular conduit for public art. You can see cool, colorful art-covered utility boxes in South Park, North Park and now Serra Mesa thanks to the Serra Mesa Utility Box Project.

Funded by the Serra Mesa Community Council, the project seeks to beautify the neighborhood and deter those damn street youths from tagging up the boxes. Along with that, Liz Rice, spokesperson for the Serra Mesa Community Council and the person spearheading the project, feels that it can bring a bit more culture to the area.

"I wanted to create a local art movement in Serra Mesa that is long overdue," Rice says. "For the neighborhood to embody more culture, be more vibrant and colorful."

The council was granted permission from San Diego Gas & Electric to use any of the utility boxes in the area as a canvas for local artists to create original pieces.

So far, Rice and the council have commissioned pieces from five artists: Sonia Lopez-Chavez, Saratoga Sake, Lukia Esparza, Elura Morris and Adam Kyron Murillo.

Murillo, 27, is a Chula Vista native. He describes his utility box as having a more "realistic feel" with a focus on landscape and local wildlife.

"What I'm trying to do is more of the surrounding animals and nature that are local to the Serra Mesa area, since I'm more of a landscape/portraiture artist," explains Murillo, whose first utility box creation can be seen in front of William H. Taft Middle School. "I'm trying to get together with locals and ask what they think should be on the boxes."

Murillo feels this project can have many positive effects on the community as well as the artists who participate.

"I think it's a great idea because it promotes art, first of all," he says. "Second, I'm not sure what their budget is, but hopefully they'll be able to give work to these local artists that are trying to get their work out there."

This is the beginning of what Rice and the council hopes to be a continuing project. Any artist who'd like to contribute can email artwork examples to Rice at The council will evaluate all submissions for consideration.

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