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Utility boxes in Duncan soon to become a thing of beauty

Four female artists were the announced winners for the city’s 2023 Utility Box Beautification Project

The inspiring imagination, and amazing artwork of four Vancouver Island artists have added even more vibrancy and beauty to the City of Totems, including Duncan’s own Lindsay Myers for her piece titled Tiny Cities.

“It was a surprise to be chosen for the project,” said Myers. “I’m excited to have my work displayed in the downtown core of the city I grew up in.”

Myers is an artist and harm reduction worker and through her painting aspires to bring back the wonder and curiosity of earthly magic and human nature.

“Growing up in Duncan I was enmeshed in the wonder of the natural beauty of the valley,” said Myers in her bio. “The fields kept me company, the rivers and creeks held space for me, and the forest taught me to be inquisitive. Much of that wonder has been lost as our ‘Tiny City’ has grown. But, a new beauty is found in the community relationships I am building as a harm reduction worker, as a volunteer for various organizations, and as a window painter for local shops. Our community is rich in diversity and experience. We are not perfect. I envision a tiny city with a big heart holding space for all of its members.”

Myers’s Tiny Cities has been installed on the utility box on Kenneth Street near Canada Avenue, and she hopes that her art will encourage viewers passing by to pause, play, and imagine.

The City of Duncan Utility box project was inspired by the work being done in the Town of Sidney which has installed more than 50 pieces of public art on their utility boxes since 2008. This is the first year that the City of Duncan has undertaken this type of project, and they got almost 60 submissions from all over Vancouver Island, and even as far as Chicago after first putting a call out to artists back in August. The four women artists chosen have had their work installed on utility boxes wrapped in a graffiti-resistant surface throughout downtown Duncan.

“We feel this project provides an important platform to increase visibility and recognition of the local arts community,” said city planner Larissa Barry-Thibodeau. “The art was selected based on merits of creating a sense of intrigue and playfulness, celebrating diversity and culture within the city, and recognizing the richness and complexity of local ecosystems. Suitability for the location and how the image would translate onto a utility box were also considered, and local artists were prioritized.”

The other three selected artists are Debralyn Beavers of Nanaimo, Chantey Dayal who resides in Quw’utsun’ mustimuhw Territory, and Claudia Lohmann of Ladysmith.

Beavers’s Snail Crossing invites viewers to escape the noise of everyday life while taking a moment to find tranquility and the simple pleasures in it. The combination of the snail’s unhurried pace, the allure of a good read, and the fluttering butterfly creates a visual ode to the importance of slowing down and savouring each moment. Beavers credits her art to being a candid exploration of feminism, mental health, and self care. Snail Crossing is installed on the utility box at Canada Avenue and Ingram Street.

Dayal’s piece is titled Broo ha ha! It was created as a part of a larger collection themed on local Quw’utsun’ Wildlife. Dayal’s artwork depicts the interconnection between the many animal beings, elements, and weather patterns during the salmon run. Dayal is a first-generation Canadian of Indian and Middle Eastern descent. Through her artwork she incorporates values drawn from her cultural heritage, while striking the viewer through a bold use of colour, shape, and contrast. Broo ha ha! was installed on the utility box on Station Street at Canada Avenue.

“I am very excited that my piece was chosen,” said Dayal. “I am most proud and delighted to be among the fantastic group of local artists who were selected. It means so much to be recognized alongside such talented colleagues.”

Lohmann’s piece is Jungle. While it was one of Lohmann’s earlier works, to this day it still remains one of her favourites. Jungle was installed on the utility box at Centennial Park.

“As a work in my imaginative geometric abstract style the subject matter and composition was fully from my imagination,” said Lohmann.

All four artists received a $300 honorarium for their winning designs, and will have their biography and social media handles displayed on the City of Duncan website.

“We hope that visitors and community members will have fun exploring these additions to the existing variety and styles of public art within the city and be inspired by how everyday items can be transformed into works of art,” said Barry-Thibodeau. “We hope that visitors and residents gain a deeper appreciation for our dynamic, vibrant, and welcoming community.”