ARTICLE FROM THE BELGRADE NEWS; ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE.
Author: Sam Weber, staff writer
Originally published: Sept. 15, 2016
Last week, several otherwise boring roadside fixtures around Belgrade received quite the facelift.
Clean Slate Group, a Bozeman business, added colorful, graffiti-resistant vinyl wraps to 12 utility boxes around town. The spruce-up was a Belgrade Youth Forum project that’s been in the works since the beginning of the year.
“I think it kind of came from taking a look at all the different types of activities our kids do,” said Youth Forum President Tiffany Maierle. “There are a lot of things out there sports-wise and we were working on the skate park for that group, so we were looking for something for kids that maybe weren’t associated with any of those things. Our board had seen the wraps in Bozeman and loved those.”
The wraps are essentially giant stickers. Clean Slate Group took high-resolution photos of artwork, printed the images out on giant sheets of vinyl and applied them to the large metal utility boxes that sit near traffic lights. The boxes that were once grey and boring are now paint-resistant, sticker-repellant and covered with Belgrade students’ art.
Maierle said the youth forum gathered around 40 art submissions from Belgrade Middle School art students this spring. The did another call for work from students of all ages this summer through social media and fliers and got 40 more pieces. The forum board, local artist Wendy Marquis and a representative from Clean Slate Group narrowed the submissions down to around 25 finalists.
“We just let the kids do whatever they wanted,” Maierle said. “As we picked them, we realized the themes we liked best were often nature or Montana-focused.”
The final choices were then combined to make 12 wraps for utility boxes all around town, from Amsterdam Road, to Jackrabbit Lane, to the airport interchange.
It cost $7,500 to cover the 12 boxes, Maierle added. The city of Belgrade pitched in $2,000 for the project and the rest was covered by funds from a Turner Foundation grant the forum received for student-driven projects.
Maierle said all of the artists were “very excited” to find out their work would be featured around town. Several of them walked with the youth forum in the Fall Festival parade and posed for pictures at their new art displays.
The new displays have also inspired some further volunteer beautification, which Maierle called “the cascading effect of community service.” She said one artist’s mother spent three hours picking up garbage, pulling weeds and cutting down growth around a utility box after her daughter’s work was put up.
“If one project or one act of kindness can trickle out and inspire others to do an additional act of kindness, amazing things will happen in and around Belgrade,” Maierle said.
The covers are guaranteed to last for five years, but may last up to seven, Maierle said. The forum may choose to replace them sooner, though, because they hope to continue the project. Next summer, Maierle said they plan to get wraps for garbage cans in city parks.
It would cost $6,500 to cover twelve garbage cans, which Maierle said she hopes will come from another grant.
Aside from decorating Belgrade’s parks and street corners, the youth forum is also focusing on building trails around town, working with the Gallatin Valley Land Trust and the city. Additionally, the group will soon transition to its new name — the Belgrade Community Coalition. Maierle said it will reflect their shifting focus from youth alone, to the entire community as a whole.