High school students install mixed-media artwork on Ocean Avenue utility boxes

High school students install mixed-media artwork on Ocean Avenue utility boxes
Photos: Courtesy of Youth Art Exchange
By Nathan Falstreau - Published on August 15, 2018.

Ocean Avenue's utility boxes are getting a makeover this month, with artwork from San Francisco public high school students. 

The project, called "Ocean Bloom," comes from Youth Art Exchange (YAX), a nonprofit organization that pairs students with professional Bay Area artists to provide free arts programming throughout the city. 

Printmakers Hyeyoon Song and Paul Mullowney and photographers Autumn Swisher and Brisa Aceves worked with the students to develop the collaborative works during the 2017-2018 school year. They'll be installed on 10 San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) utility boxes.

In addition to showcasing students' work, the boxes are intended to "engage community members with the arts where they live," according to a representative for YAX. 

Faculty and students researched native plants and flowers of the area to better understand the physical makeup and history of Ocean Avenue, while photography students took community members' portraits using black-and-white film, then developed them at Rayko Photo Center.

The printmaking students then translated those portraits into silkscreened pieces with collaged native plants, to "reflect Ocean Avenue 'then and now.'" The pieces also include statements about the project in English, Chinese and Spanish. 

The final images were digitally transposed to vinyl and installed on the boxes by Clean Slate Group, which specializes in "anti-graffiti vinyl." According to the company's website, permanent marker, spray paint and adhesives "are easily removed with simple cleaners" in the event the artwork is vandalized.

"Ocean Bloom" was made possible through support from District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee's Participatory Budget Process, the Ocean Avenue Association, the San Francisco Arts Commission and the SFMTA.