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A splash of art coming to a street near you: Liberty Lake dresses up utility boxes, hopes to do more across town

David Himebaugh and Laina Schultz are members of the city of Liberty Lake’s arts commission, which has started putting wraps on utility boxes around town. These first efforts have been sponsored by STCU, and the group hopes to continue on to bigger things. This box is covered with work by K-3 artists who were studying Vincent Van Gogh. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
David Himebaugh and Laina Schultz are members of the city of Liberty Lake’s arts commission, which has started putting wraps on utility boxes around town. These first efforts have been sponsored by STCU, and the group hopes to continue on to bigger things. This box is covered with work by K-3 artists who were studying Vincent Van Gogh. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The efforts of Liberty Lake’s new Parks and Arts Commission can already be seen on street corners in the city that feature utility boxes wrapped in colorful artwork and there’s much more to come.

The new commission formed in January, but the first public art didn’t hit the street until August.

“We were just gathering lots of research, and that took a really long time,” said commission chairwoman Laina Schutz.

Commission members were inspired by the utility box wraps in Coeur d’Alene and downtown Spokane, she said. “It was an affordable way to get art in Liberty Lake,” she said.

Six wraps were installed in August. Two were created by students at Liberty Creek Elementary School and two by students at Liberty Lake Elementary. Historic photos of the Pavillion Park that used to be a Liberty Lake destination cover two utility boxes in the park.

Schutz said the wraps bring a community voice and so much excitement.

“Liberty Lake is beautiful already, but anytime you can add art to the community it just adds to it,” she said.

The commission plans to open a call to artists soon to get designs for more of the 60 utility boxes left undecorated.

“We’re hoping to do between four and six a year going forward,” she said.

The six current utility box wraps were all sponsored by STCU, and Schutz said the credit union has expressed interest in sponsoring more.

The utility box wraps at the southwest corner of Appleway Avenue and Liberty Lake Road just off the freeway were created by students in kindergarten through the second grade. They learned about artist Vincent van Gogh and tried their hand at recreating his famous “Starry Night” painting. Each utility box showcases the work of several students.

“I imagine the parents are pretty proud,” said commission vice chair David Himebaugh.

The commission is also discussing the possibility of acquiring statues and has been talking about what they should look like and where they could go, Schutz said.

An anonymous donor recently donated an abstract statue titled “Family Pieces” created by Cheney artist Richard Warrington, said Himebaugh.

“We hope to have it on display in City Hall on Thursday,” he said.

The art work was a private commission and has never been displayed in public before, Himebaugh said. “We’re pretty excited about that,” he said.

The commission is also working with the Liberty Lake Library to create a story walk on the trail that runs between Liberty Lake Road and the Trailhead Golf Course. Pages from children’s books will be installed along the route for people to read as they walk.

“I think families will really enjoy it,” said Schutz.

What the commission does in the future will depend on how much funding it gets from the city. Schutz said the commission recently submitted a proposed budget to the city council for consideration.

The organization hopes to help fund existing programs in Pavillion Park, such as the Fourth of July concert and fireworks, while starting new programs at other parks, particularly the new Orchard Park.

“We would like to eventually have activities not just at Pavillion Park,” Himebaugh said. “We can see doing some events, maybe even some small concerts.”

The commission would rather focus on small projects and new park programs than worry about a major art installation, he said. “Our goal is to start out with something that’s achievable.”

Schutz said she’d like to see art made a part of the budget in all the city’s capital projects.

“I think we’ll get there,” she said.


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