Skip to content

Who’s behind the colorful utility boxes popping up around Brookline?

A utility box in Brookline Village painted by Heather Mendonca. Photo by Zoe Zekos
December 5, 2023

Wondering why 10 utility boxes around town have turned colorful over the past few weeks?

It’s part of a town-led effort to make Brookline more photogenic and “visually vibrant” by enlisting artists to brighten up drab parts of public infrastructure.

Funded by $225,000 from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the town set out last year to create public art in Brookline’s main commercial areas.

“Public art was identified as something business owners wanted, residents wanted, and really the general public wanted,” said Aaron Norris, the town’s economic development and long-term planner.

Get the latest Brookline news free in your inbox.
All fields required. You may unsubscribe at any time.

The 10 utility boxes, five painted and five wrapped in colorful vinyl designs, are just the first step in that process.

The town had 100 applications from 70 different artists, according to Norris.

One was Marcy Sacks, a designer and teacher who said she has been looking for opportunities to get involved with public art. Her box, which she designed digitally and printed on vinyl with the help of Franklin Marvel, an artist who worked with the town to bring all of the boxes to life, is located in Washington Square.

A utility box designed by Marcy Sacks in Washington Square. Photo by Sam Mintz

“I find that in Brookline, people are really stressed out, and constantly in the middle of this and that. I was hoping this would be a moment for people to really stop and go ‘Wow. What is that?’” Sacks said.

Nell Valle, another local artist who painted a box adorned with ducks and fruit outside Far Out Ice Cream on Harvard Street, said she does lots of art with animals and was inspired by the shop’s avian logo.

“I was thinking, maybe it’s another kind of bird that could be friends with that bird,” Valle said.

A utility box designed by Nell Valle on Harvard Street. Photo by Sam Mintz

The town’s public art project will continue into next year, with a set of 10 painted sculptures intended to honor some of Brookline’s most famous (or infamous) residents: turkeys. The large fiberglass turkey sculptures will be painted with different designs, like the colorful cows which have sprung up around Boston.

A number of other murals, sculptures, and metal and lightwork installations are also on the docket for next year. By 2025, the town plans to have over 35 new permanent public art installations across Brookline.

Photos: See more of the painted and vinyl-wrapped utility boxes around town. Photos by Zoe Zekos 

  • A vinyl wrapped box by artist Stephanie Li located by the St. Mary’s T stop near 1016 Beacon Street. Photo by Zoe Zekos

Here are the locations of utility boxes which are currently in place, with the names of the artists who painted or designed them:

Vinyl Wrapped Boxes

• Ben Jundanian – Brookline Village (202 Washington St.)

• Howie Green – Coolidge Corner (Beacon & Harvard)

• Nell Valle – JFK Crossing (419 Harvard St.)

• Stephanie Li – St. Mary’s (1016 Beacon St.)

• Marcy Sacks – Washington Square (Beacon & Washington)

Painted Boxes

• Joe McKendry – St. Mary’s (1051 Beacon St.)

• Ruth Henry – Brookline Village (155 Harvard St.)

• Jane Kim – Washington Square (1663 Beacon St.)

• Caroline Zoll – Coolidge Corner (316 Harvard St.)

• Heather Mendonca – Brookline Village (1 Harvard Sq.)