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Amanda Beard Garcia was out on Mystic Avenue early last Sunday morning, paintbrush in hand.
The Woburn-based artist hunched beside a utility box just across from the I-93 exit painting the word “Together” on a blue, pink and orange background. Her husband, Jacob Garcia, painted “We Are Resilient” onto another utility box next to his wife.
The colorful boxes bloom out of the concrete and asphalt landscape of Mystic Avenue, catching the eye of pedestrians and motorists alike.
That’s the goal.
Beard Garcia, 30, is one of two artists the Medford Arts Council chose to paint more than a dozen utility boxes that dot South and West Medford.
Beard Garcia has transformed her 10 boxes in South Medford from grey green hulks to five-sided murals featuring the faces women of color and positive messages.
“I thought it would be perfect to pair the portraits with words of affirmation or inspiring messages and to think about women’s empowerment,” she said. “I want people to walk by these boxes and feel like it’s a message directed at them.”
Beard Garcia figures she spent two or three days on each box for a total of 20 or 30 days since the beginning of July. The pair she was painting on Sunday were the last two, but she has to return to each one to apply a final coat.
“It feels like quite an accomplishment. I don’t think starting this project I realized how much work it was going to be,” she added.
Destiny Palmer, the artist the Arts Council chose to paint utility boxes in West Medford, has deep connections to the neighborhood. Her family and her partner are all long-time residents. She has lived in Medford for three years.
While her family loves that her work is displayed in their community, Palmer’s, an experience mural painter who has done work around the country, is still not used to seeing her own work every day.
“It’s a little awkward,” she said. “This is a very interesting thing to go by it, and I don’t know how I feel about it just yet.”
Her boxes are painted with what she called a “symphony” of colors, meant to brighten and revitalize the neighborhood and anyone walking by.
Palmer said she loves the idea of making art and color accessible to everyone.
“The [utility] boxes are definitely one of those places where art becomes really accessible to people who may feel like art isn’t accessible or haven’t been to a space like a museum or a gallery and might not feel so comfortable going,” she said.
People have been curious about the project. Dozens of people have approached Palmer as she worked on the four boxes she already painted. Some offered positive comments or water bottles while others came just for a conversation.
Beard Garcia has had the same experience.
“I’m kind of surprised at how many people engage with me or start a conversation. It’s really nice,” she said.
One of the people who stopped by on Sunday morning as Beard Garcia painted was Dwayne Johnson, who lives in South Medford and volunteers for the Medford Arts Council.
“It’s rejuvenating the city,” he said. “That’s the whole point of creating this type of art, it really gives people a sense of something new.”