At its March 7 Visalia City Council meeting, members voted 5-0 in favor of a project to beautify the city. The project was the brain child of Elaine Martell, executive director of Downtown Visalians, and Mary Jo Eastes, of Arts Visalia, who had both seen, while traveling out of state, large electrical boxes turned into pieces of urban art by local painters. That’s where the conversation started about Visalia doing the same thing, except on the city-owned garbage enclosures.
“As far as I know Visalia will be the only city to have such an art project,” said Eastes.
Once the policies on the beautification project are finalized, local artists who want to paintcity garbage enclosures would need to follow the same procedure as potential muralists. The artist will fill out an application that would include a draft of their proposed artwork. The Art Enclosure policies and application should be finalized by May or before.
That artwork would have to be approved by a panel comprised of two representatives from City Council, one representative each from Arts Visalia and the Arts Consortium, and two business representatives. If the art project is downtown, the business representatives would come from Downtown Visalians. If the art project is outside of the downtown area the Chamber and the Hispanic Chamber would each be asked to appoint someone to the review panel.
While traditional murals are generally large, installed on buildings, and permanent in nature, the thought behind Solid Waste Enclosure Art is that it would usually be smaller insize, may include different mediums, and the contracts would be set up to be short term, probably 1-5 years depending on an agreement between the enclosure owner and the artist. The approval process has been set up to include business representation since enclosures aregenerally located in business areas.According to Eastes there are about 13 of city-owned enclosuresthat would be eligible for artists to paint a mini mural.
Downtown Visalians and Arts Visalia were the driving force behind the project and submitted a letter asking the city “for approval for a concept which would be a Visual Enhancement to our downtown. It would serve dual purposes, add public art for the community and greatly improve a normally unsightly area.” They continued, “The trash enclosure enhancement project will involve the art community and local high school students in art classes. We believe that the art on the enclosures will engage the public much like the art on the fire hydrants has done; will instill pride and encourage those using the enclosures to keep the area free of liter and graffiti.”
In 2008 Visalia developed a Cultural Plan that stated that a city’s physical beauty and image can be greatly enhanced with public art including murals. In addition, the Downtown Visalians and Arts Visalia have also long been interested in having more art in the community. These two organizations have sponsored art projects, including the children’s hands project along the Garden Street Plaza alley, and the Art on Fire project in the downtown. The two organizations hope that by adding the Solid Waste Enclosures, it will facilitate the walking arts tour that already encompasses the murals and the fire hydrants and be another attraction in the downtown.