Wrapped up: Shaker artists add new utility box wraps, creating public art all over the city

In 2016, the Shaker Arts Council (SHAC) decided to allow Shaker Heights High School student Maisha Afrikah Lewis to design a utility box cover on the corner of South Woodland and Woodbury Roads as part of her senior project. Then, in 2018, student Ananda Prioleau also designed a box for her senior project.

<span class="content-image-text">"Shaker Wildlife " by Tanya Tate</span>"Shaker Wildlife " by Tanya TateThe wrapped utility box was so popular—attracting passersby and other artists—that SHAC decided to expand the public art project.

Since that first box, the council launched SHAC on TRAC—sponsoring several Shaker Heights High School student artists, as well as local artists who either work or live in Shaker Heights, in designing covers for utility boxes all over town.

This year, eight newly wrapped boxes have emerged throughout Shaker Heights, brining the total to 23 boxes, says SHAC president Sally Levine. She invites people to walk, bike, or virtually view the Shaker Public Art Tour, featuring all 23 boxes and other public art sculptures and murals.

In fact, she says there is now so much public art in the city to view that the boxes have been divided into Green Line and Blue Line tours, after the two Rapid lines.

“It’s a good problem to have, where it’s getting to be so long,” Levine says of the need for two tours. “It really highlights the work of the people connected to Shaker Heights.”

Three of the new boxes are along Shaker Boulevard at the intersections of Lee Road, Courtland Boulevard, and South Green Road (the Green Line); while three more boxes are along Van Aken Boulevard at the intersections of Ashby Road, Kenmore Road and Onaway Road (the Blue Line).

Two Shaker Heights High School student-designed boxes are near the RTA Green line tracks at Southington Road. Senior Alona Miller’s design is at Lee Road and Parkland Drive, and senior Aaliyah Bell’s design is at Shaker Boulevard and Ashby Road.

The SHAC on TRAC project is funded through a project support grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, while the students’ projects are funded through the  Shaker Heights Parent Teacher Organization.

Levine says the project has gotten a lot of positive feedback and encouraging comments since SHAC on TRAC started. “Now that we’ve done this for a couple of years, we have the process figured out,” she boasts. “Probably my favorite comment is ‘these make me smile,’ because it’s great to drive down the street and smile. The Arts Council is really proud of this project—it’s taken off and really gotten positive community support. And you can’t ask for more than that.”

Levine reminds people to be sure to also stop by the Imagine Chagrin art project also occurring now. Fifteen artists have decorated the storefronts of 15 stores along Lee Road and Chagrin Boulevard. Those who check out the works can then vote for both their favorite artist and favorite business.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.