Whittier Utility Boxes


A recent urban design trend has gained widespread popularity nationwide and is transforming the humble utility box of city streetscapes into lively works of art. The City of Minneapolis has been an eager participant in this re-imagining of utility boxes and MCAD students have aligned their talents with our neighborhood partner, the Whittier Neighborhood Alliance.

In 2014, DesignWorks was approached by the Whittier Neighborhood Alliance to take part in the city-wide project. DesignWorks worked with Marian Biehn and Rob Davis of the Whittier Alliance to design, develop, and deploy brightly-colored abstract box wraps that reflect the vibrant character of the neighborhood.

DesignWorks created more than 80 designs that were presented to community members and business owners for consideration, with 20 designs being selected for implementation. Eight designs were installed in August 2014, and an additional twelve designs will be installed on utility boxes over the next twelve months. All of the final designs selected for production were created by international students at MCAD—an interesting coincidence given that the Whittier neighborhood is one of Minneapolis’s most diverse with 28 percent of its residents being foreign-born.

Through its Art in Public Places division, the city of Minneapolis launched twelve pre-approved box wrap designs that neighborhoods can implement as “plug-and-play” options on utility boxes. Neighborhood associations, throughout Minneapolis, have used their own funds to solicit artists to create and install original design concepts on utility boxes.

To date, this city-wide beautification effort has produced 155 utility boxes that have been transformed from common eyesores into unique works of art.


Christina Huang ’14 MFA
Ning Kang ’14 MFA
HeeYun Kim ’14 MFA
Jiyun Lou ’14 MFA