Utility Box Art: Natural Paintings Transport Glendale and Spruce Cliff
Three utility boxes in two communities are made over by local artist Lisa Tornack
Photographs courtesy of Lisa Tornack
You have probably noticed over the past several years our city’s utility boxes have been used as canvases for art. It’s part of the Utility Box Program, which began in 2010 as a way to create public art using funding for regular lifecycle maintenance of the boxes. In April 2014, the Inspiring Strong Neighbourhoods Initiative was launched. It expands on the utility box program by partnering artists with communities. Those artists were then asked to consult with the community and design boxes that reflect the community that they are working with. Avenue decided to check in on a few of the boxes to see how local artists interpret Calgary communities. This is our third installment, you can see the first here and the second here.
Glendale in the South West is home the the cheerily named Optimist Athletic park, and borders Sarcee Trail, 37th Street, 17th and 26th Avenues. Nearby Spruce Cliff, annexed in 1910 and established in 1950, can be found sandwiched between the Bow River and Bow Trail S.W., with the Shagganappi golf course to the east and 37th Street to the west.
Lisa Tornack has a BFA from the Alberta College of Art + Design, works out of her own studio in Calgary and occasionally teaches at the Wildflower Art Centre. Though she’s been painting professionally for 12 years, she’s been working in the medium since as far back as she can remember.
Tornack was drawn to the utility box art project for the community engagement aspect, having just come out of an Artist’s Working in Communities program through Calgary Public Art. “It was natural to come out of that program and do a community engagement piece,” she says. The more traditional paint style is a change from her current work in mixed mediums with oil, charcoal and landscape photographs, which can be seen on her website ltornack.com
Glendale held a poll where people could vote on one of three chosen themes, with the winning concept being nature and natural elements of the area. This resulted in the mountains, wheat stalks and open skies that made up the final design of their utility box.
Spruce Cliff’s two boxes were sourced through Tornack’s meetings with members of its community associations. The first box’s theme is transportation; pathways, wheels, the Bow river and natural elements of Spruce Cliff all make an appearance. The second, smaller box, designed in a similar vein to its Glendale counterpart, features spruce trees, leaves and pinecones covering its four sides.
Both communities had a preview of the design before it went to Calgary Public Art and were able to have their say on the proposed designs. “Everyone felt like part of the process,” says Tornack, who was careful to cultivate that throughout her work. “A lot of public art has come under fire recently, but these projects are more accessible to the public; they get it,” she says. “I’m a proponent of public art; who’s to say what’s good art?” You can make up your own mind and find all three boxes on the map below.