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Salt Lake City’s largest art installation features work from its youngest residents

One utility box for each of the 28 elementary schools in Salt Lake City School District will be wrapped by 1,100 pieces of art as part of the city’s largest art installation.

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Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Bennion Elementary School students check out a utility box covered with the students’ art after it was unveiled in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. The ColorSLC project aims transform city utility boxes, like the one across the street from the school at 429 S. 800 East, into public art. Through the ColorSLC program, 28 utility boxes have been wrapped with more than 1,100 of pieces of original art created by students at each of the 28 elementary schools in the Salt Lake City School District. It is the city’s largest public art installation.

Steve Griffin

SALT LAKE CITY — The city’s largest art installation, Color SLC, will bring life to 28 utility boxes representing each elementary school in the city’s school district.

Collages of more than 1,100 pieces of art by the city’s kindergarten through sixth grade residents have been photographed to create wraps for the boxes located across the city.

“Kids from every public elementary school in Salt Lake City participated in ColorSLC, turning bland, boring utility boxes into works of art like this,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, indicating a decorated utility box across the street from Bennion Elementary School.

During a debut of the art installation, Biskupski spoke to a group of the school’s third graders whose art was featured on the box.

“A big part of what we’re trying to do is elevate all the artists in our community,” she said. “I’m so glad it began with you, our youngest artists in Salt Lake City.”

Biskupski noted that the project began at Rose Park Elementary and was so well received by parents and students in the area that the city decided to expand it.

The event took place outside one of the city’s most diverse schools, and one that may face closure in the coming year after the school board delayed a decision to close last year.

According to the Utah State Board of Education, out of the 220 students currently enrolled at Bennion Elementary, 62% are minorities, 29% are English language learners and 100% are economically disadvantaged.

Paul Heath, an art teacher at the school, said the project is a testament to Bennion Elementary’s resilience.

“With the talk of Bennion’s future we know that we want to give everybody our best,” he said. “We feel thrilled that we have this opportunity and we hope that the community itself knows that we want to be here to stay.”

Ashley Leete, whose 8-year-old daughter McKenzie Leete participated in the project, echoed a similar sentiment.

“With some of the problems that were going on with Bennion and possibly closing last year, (Mckenzie) was excited to show everybody that this venue is so creative, that they’re still out there and a part of the community.”

Heath said artwork featured on the box was originally created as a Mother’s Day project. He noted that the pieces were chosen because the theme of the project — stained glass — fit well with the church outside which the utility box is located.

Stephanie White said of her son, Elias White, who participated in the project, “I think it’s so cool that they have opportunities like that this young, because he was always really artistic but it really helps their development.”

Samples of the students’ original artwork will also hang in the lobby of the mayor’s office through September.