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Auntie Mame 5 - Rideau Street BIA (Ottawa)

Here is a great idea that turns necessity into a virtue – covering unattractive utility boxes with beautiful art!

Many cities are turning to utility box wraps to eliminate the unattractive visual impact of this necessary infrastructure crowding our public streets. To create the wrap, art work is printed on a high quality, very durable vinyl that is coated with an anti-graffiti laminate. The wrap typically lasts from 5 to 7 years depending on ongoing impacts from vandalism and sun exposure. Suppliers often recommend selecting busy wrap images that minimize open areas attractive to vandals and taggers. Often wrapping is often combined with hiring a graffiti removal contractor.

For municipalities and business improvement areas the creative potential for establishing a unique local theme is limited only by your imagination.

This project started out as an attempt to reduce maintenance costs due to vandalism of electrical boxes by the City of Ottawa. The city wrapped several electrical control boxes in an OC Transpo motif. The results were a success. The Downtown Rideau Business Improvement Association (D.R.B.I.A.) liked the results and went a step further. They asked local artist Drew Mandigo if the B.I.A. could purchase the rights to his sophisticated original artwork to transform 17 electrical boxes into mural boxes that have since become a street art exhibit throughout the business improvement area. These 17 works feature women dressed in 1950’s fashions from Mandigo’s AUNTIE MAME Series. The works, based on the spirit of the 1958 film of the same name, fit Downtown Rideau’s brand as Ottawa’s Arts, Fashion & Theatre District. Recently this project was the recipient of an award from the International Downtown Association (IDA). Clearly the B.I.A. took a very sophisticated approach with this project, employing a deft hand, thereby creating something assertive enough to stand up to the surrounding urban environment.

The Downtown Rideau Mural Boxes is the D.R.B.I.A.’s first installation of this commemorative exhibit. It has become a 2017 Legacy project celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday. Another installation of a different series of art will be added to the Mural Boxes exhibit in 2017. Wisely, the D.R.B.I.A. recognized an opportunity to expand its public art program and create a 2017 Legacy public art project with the electrical boxes. Each of the electrical boxes feature a plaque containing a QR code directing viewers to information about the mural boxes and the artist on the Downtown Rideau website downtownrideau.com including a link to download the B.I.A.’s Culture Walk APP to take the tour.

See the entire Auntie Mame mural box art exhibit »

Auntie Mame 5 - Rideau Street BIA (Ottawa)Auntie Mame 20 - Rideau Street BIA (Ottawa)Box 21 (left) is entitled Auntie Mame 5 and it is located on Rideau Street @ MacKenzie Avenue (south side of the street, near the National Conference Centre).

This Russian inspired mural box evokes glamourous luxury with furs, Faberge eggs, and a chandelier of onion domes all saturated in a rich blue colour.

Box 20 (right) is entitled Auntie Mame 20 and it is located on Rideau Street @ Sussex Drive (northeast corner).

This fin de siècle theme has a woman posing in front of a richly ornamented golden background of art deco metalwork. The quality of the artist’s representation of the metalwork is astonishing in its realism and tactility. I could imagine reproducing any type of high end material in a vinyl wrap and applying it to create a focal point, or to disguise an unsightly feature.

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