VisitHATTIESBURG Launches HBURG Public Art Trail: Utility Box Edition
READ THIS ARTICLE IN ITS ORIGINAL FORMAT HERE.
By HASKEL BURNS
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, officials from Visit Hattiesburg enlisted several artists to begin painting utility boxes around the city, in an effort to safely continue public art during quarantine – a project that completed its third phase last year.
Now, with 45 original paintings on utility boxes, Visit Hattiesburg has launched the HBURG Public Art Trail: Utility Box Edition, featuring artwork that connects the Hub City’s neighborhoods, main thoroughfares and several points of interest.
“It was really a way to invest in some artists whose incomes were greatly affected during the pandemic, like a lot of industries,” said Kristen Brock, director of programs and promotions for Visit Hattiesburg. “It was a way for Hattiesburg to support our artists, grow our public art footprint and really … it gave us the opportunity to support artists that weren’t ready, or didn’t have the experience to complete a large-scale mural.
“It gave them a way to share their talent with Hattiesburg and to complete a project to grow their public art portfolio, and eventually move on to some larger-scale projects.”
So far, 32 artists have participated in the HBURG Public Art Trail: Utility Box Edition. That includes local art teacher Ricardo Moody, who has completed several other works of art such as the Yellow Brick Road mural in the Hattiesburg Public Arts Center on Main Street.
“Public Art is important for Hattiesburg because it highlights the vibrancy of our city and its people,” Moody said. “The pieces featured on the new trail have the ability to activate space, creating an inviting place where new interactions take place.”
Brock said Visit Hattiesburg officials hope to grow the project by adding more utility boxes in the future.
“We went ahead and created this trail as a way for people to be able to identify all of the public utility boxes that are already here,” Brock said. “So by the time we finished Phase III, we were up to 45 utility boxes, and it really garnered its own trail, or its own component, of the public art trail.
“So we do hope to do at least one more phase; we have a lot of artists that are interested in completing a utility box. We just have to be able to identify those boxes that are on main thoroughfares and main streets that get a lot of traffic. We have to get permission for every utility box that we do, so it’s just a process to get that.”
Visit Hattiesburg officials are actively marketing the Public Art Trail: Utility Box Edition to encourage participation in the endeavor, including measures such as digital brochures and interactive maps on www.hburgart.com and the “Visit HBURG” mobile app.
“We have already gotten a lot of traffic to that part of our web page,” Brock said. “So not only do we have a physical map of the trail, we also have a Google Map and a page on the HBURG Art website.
“We’ve already gotten a lot of traffic there of people downloading the map, so that they can go visit the trail. And we’ve had a lot of social media interaction so far; it’s been very positive, and we’ve been trying to feature those utility boxes on all of our social media channels as well.”
Hattiesburg has been lauded several times for its public arts projects, most recently being named a Top 11 must-see public art destination in the world by Travel + Leisure Magazine.
“That was a great honor,” Brock said. “Any time Hattiesburg’s name can be next to some of the largest cities – not only in the United States, but in the world – that really goes to show the efforts that we have here to grow public art.
“It’s being recognized not just locally, but on a global scale, and we’re making a difference.”