Winning Designs From Edina’s Utility Box Art Competition

by | May 2024

Faces Today by Sophia Adams

“Faces Today” by Sophia Adams. Photos: Edina’s Utility Box Art Competition

Utility boxes get a facelift.

The end game for Edina’s Utility Box Art Competition was simple—beautify five big unattractive metal boxes. Mission accomplished.

The city-sponsored contest was run through Edina’s Arts and Culture Commission and modeled after a similar program in Bloomington. Artists and nonartists alike could submit works from any medium, with a maximum of three designs per applicant. Proposed design concepts included Edina-related art, organics and recycling, sustainable living and student art.

The response to the call-out was louder than expected, as 76 contributors submitted a total of 145 possibilities.

Laura Westlund, chair of the Arts and Culture Commission, was thrilled. “There was a lot of enthusiasm, which made it fun,” Westlund says. She and two other commission members picked the winners.

Their focus was visual rather than symbolism. “We considered the location and how it would be viewed,” she says. “Designs couldn’t be too intricate, as most would be seen while driving.”

Each of the three commission members independently reviewed all 145 submissions. They then met and whittled their lists down to 20 before visiting each site. Not knowing how specific pieces would work on the boxes, they picked first- and second-choice finishes for every location. “In the end, I believe all our first picks worked,” Westlund says.

A collage of animals created by Cornelia Elementary School fifth graders was chosen as the winning design for the utility box that sits outside the school. The installation is called We Are One Family, and it sits on the corner of Cornelia Drive and West 70th Street. The idea was submitted by art teacher Shannon Steven.

“The pieces I picked represent the diversity of our students,” Steven says. “Some of the animals are native to Minnesota, and some are from other parts of the world … One of my goals is to get our district’s art into the community. This does that.” The process to move the art from the page to the box is also interesting. Artwork is transferred to a durable vinyl material before it is attached to the box.

“Even though the students didn’t know this was going to happen when they were painting their animals, I like to think of this as a legacy they left behind,” Steven says. “For the younger kids in the school, it’s inspirational.”

The four other winning designs include Faces Today by Sophia Adams (West 77th Street and Computer Avenue); Handprints of Our Block by Chelsea Mielke and Family (West 78th Street and Cecelia Circle/Delaney Boulevard); Rooster by Amy Bounds (West 70th Street and Metro Boulevard); and Urban Spirit by MollieRae Miller (West 78th Street and Cahill Road).

"Rooster" by Amy Bounds

“Rooster” by Amy Bounds

We are One Family and Faces Today were installed in 2023. Handprints of Our Block and Urban Spirit are set to grace our streets this spring. Rooster is on West 70th Street where it branches off Metro Boulevard, west of Highway 100. City of Edina Recreation Supervisor Laura Fulton predicts the painting will become a landmark.

“You’ll turn at the Rooster,” Fulton says. “When I grew up, you’d use landmarks for directions. You’d take a left at the white church and then right at the red barn.”


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