Call for Artists-Utility Box Artwork


The City of DeKalb and Citizens’ Community Enhancement Commission (CCEC) are accepting proposals from DeKalb community members to create utility box artwork that sends a welcoming message to residents and visitors and conveys the theme of belonging.


This call is open to residents, current and former students and faculty of Northern Illinois University, Kishwaukee College and the DeKalb School District, employees of DeKalb businesses or any outside artist. Submissions by both novice and professional artists will be accepted.

Project Description

This project seeks to turn three downtown utility boxes into vibrant works of art and is part of a public arts initiative by the City and CCEC to enhance the aesthetics of DeKalb, promote civic pride, highlight the community’s diversity and promote a spirit of belonging.

It is preferred that applicants create designs in digital format to be printed on vinyl and wrapped around the utility boxes by a third-party fabricator given the durability of vinyl and its resistance to graffiti and rust. Applicants may also submit proposals to paint the utility boxes.

Up to three artists will be chosen. 


The applicant shall submit a full color design in digital format on one of three utility box templates.

Proposals will be evaluated based on:

  • Incorporation of a welcoming theme conveying a sense of belonging,
  • the artistic excellence, vibrancy and originality of the artist and
  • the appropriateness of the design for its site in the DeKalb community.

Proposals must be the artist’s own work and must not violate any copyright restrictions. Designs should not include inappropriate words, adult images, advertisements, political messages, or religious themes.

Submission Process

All proposals must be submitted via the online application form linked here.

There is no submission fee. One application per artist. Applicants must be 18 or older or have parent or a legal guardian apply and supervise painting.

All correspondence and contracts are part of the public record. By submitting materials, you are (1) consenting to the release of those materials by the City in response to requests under the Public Records Act and (2) agreeing to indemnify and hold harmless the City for release of such information.

Selection Process

The CCEC and City staff will review applications for completeness and eligibility. The City Council will give final approval to the designs.

Project Logistics

The City and CCEC have identified three downtown utility boxes in highly-visible locations for this project. They are located in:

Van Buer Plaza (Behind Debutantes)
Utility box located in Van Buer Plaza

Palmer Court (Adjacent to South Wall of Egyptian Theatre)
Utility Box located in Palmer Court

Vaughn Parking Lot (Behind City Hall)
Utility box located in the Vaughn Parking Lot

After selecting a utility box to design, download the template for that utility box below. The completed template should be submitted through the online application form.

Applicants who design a vinyl wrap will be required to submit a vector file or a high-resolution digital file and may be asked to make revisions to accommodate production.


Submissions must be received no later than 11:59 PM (CST) on Wednesday, July 13, 2022.

Earliest start date: By July 26, 2022

Project completed: By October 1, 2022

Artist Incentive

DeKalb County Community Gardens is provided a $150 artist incentive for each utility box. The incentive will serve as compensation for the artists’ work and talent. The incentive is paid after the utility box artwork is completed to the satisfaction of the City.

Production & Supply Expenses

The City will cover the expenses of producing and installing the vinyl wraps.

Participants who paint a utility box will be reimbursed for up to $150 in paint and painting supplies. An oil-based primer must be used on the utility box before painting followed by a high-quality oil-based enamel paint specifically for metal. Participants shall notify the City at the completion of the painting and then within 45 days, submit invoices and/or receipts for reimbursement of paint and painting supplies.

These expenses will be funded with a T-Mobile Hometown Grant awarded to the City in March 2022.


  • The City reserves the right to terminate the program as a whole or as it applies to any individual utility box project at any time, in the City’s sole discretion, and to return any utility box to a condition the City shall determine necessary or appropriate. 
  • Selected artists will be required to complete and sign a release and waiver of liability, assumption of risk and indemnity agreement.

Point of contact

Scott Zak
City of DeKalb (IL)
Management Analyst
Citizens’ Community Enhancement Commission Liaison
(815) 748-2396