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  • Writer's pictureJenn

Lakewood's Utility Box Vinyl Art Wraps - Installed

Earlier this year, several graphic art proposals I created were selected and installed for Lakewood's Utility Box Wrap Program, which aims to reduce graffiti and beautify public spaces. My design goal was to highlight the area's unique stories, local ecology and transform the large stainless steel boxes into whimsical art objects.

Using a photorealistic style and many layers of actual photographs, the three-dimensional "cabinets" were vinyl-wrapped by Print NW. The Tacoma company did a beautiful job making and applying the colorful, high quality wraps. It was a pleasure working with them.

Each object in “Lakewood's Cabinet of Curiosities” represents the area's history with motifs central to the city's cultural and military history, and several native flora and fauna, including Garry oak, Big Leaf maple and Douglas squirrel.

The facing portraits of Nisqually Tribe's Chief Leschi and Fort Steilacoom’s Commander, Lt. Col. Silas Casey, imply unity and support between some settlers, especially in Pierce County, and Coast Salish Indigenous Tribes during a time of turmoil. (Lt. Col. Casey fought to pardon Chief Leschi and protect him from an unjust death. Because of this, Casey was hung in effigy by angry settlers.)

To learn more, read Ezra Meeker's (1830-1928) account in his book Pioneer reminiscences of Puget Sound: The Tragedy of Leschi, uploaded by Google and hosted on the Internet Archive available as a free download. Meeker was a farmer and defender of Chief Leschi. This article by My Northwest summarizes the situation.

The “Portholes to Portals” designs offer glimpses into beautiful landscapes through "windows" placed onto the steel boxes, which are covered in trailing and vining plants. Pedestrians and bicyclists waiting for the streetlight to change spy manicured gardens, waterfalls and forest woodlands through the portals.

The artwork is located at the corner of Steilacoom Blvd NW and Farwest Dr NW, across from Western State Hospital and down the hill from Pierce College.

It was an honor to acknowledge these spaces and the people that came before us through Lakewood's Utility Box Public Art Project. Here are some items in the "cabinet":

  1. Big Leaf Maple botanical drawing

  2. Western State Hospital postcard

  3. Rake/milking pail/boxes of fruit, Fort Steilacoom Park, referencing the Occupational Therapy Program at Western State Hospital

  4. Douglas Squirrel

  5. Garry Oak botanical drawing

  6. Douglas Fir

  7. Portrait of Chief Leschi of the Nisqually Tribe

  8. Portrait of Fort Steilacoom’s Commander, Lt. Col. Silas Casey

  9. Canoe paddle/fishing gear

  10. Rack of drying salmon

I encourage all to explore Fort Steilacoom Park, hike surrounding trails and enjoy Wapato Lake. In the fall, you can gather apples and pears in the abandoned orchard created in the 1940's by Western State Hospital's Occupational Therapy Department.

Enter to win a prize by taking a photo of the cabinet and answer the questions below in a social media post, like Instagram. Use the hashtag: #FindingLakewood so I see it. (Deadline to enter is November 30, 2022.)

  • Is Ezra Meeker's book on a shelf?

  • How many squirrels are there?

  • Which Portal would you step through?


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