The Sasquatch-themed utility box sits on the corner of S 352nd and Pacific Highway 99 in Federal Way. Photo courtesy of the Federal Way Arts Commission

The Sasquatch-themed utility box sits on the corner of S 352nd and Pacific Highway 99 in Federal Way. Photo courtesy of the Federal Way Arts Commission

Traffic Graffics brighten up Federal Way streets

Nearly 30 colorful utility box art displays decorate the city.

Next time you’re sitting at a stoplight in Federal Way, you may find fireworks, colorful dogs donning sunglasses, or you could be looking into the eyes of Sasquatch.

The Federal Way Arts Commission is behind the city’s vinyl-wrapped utility box murals, deemed “Traffic Graffics.” These public art displays can be found on most intersection street corners throughout the city.

Former Arts Commission board chair Gary Gillespie launched the Utility Box Art Pilot Program in 2014 after he first saw the idea demonstrated in California; more research showed utility box painting was happening all over the country.

“It made it look like the community cared,” Gillespie recalled.

Since then, nearly 30 utility boxes in Federal Way have been transformed into works of art.

One utility box near the Federal Way Transit Center commemorates the Seattle Seahawks football team. The most recent utility box art installation was designed by Decatur High School student Samantha Mendoza-Rojas whose “Starry Night” artwork conveys childhood, imagination and wonder.

There are some guidelines for the art displays: the designs have to be colorful, bold and fun pieces. And they must be noticeable, even when driving past at 40 miles an hour, said Dan Hershman, current chair of the Federal Way Arts Commission.

Traffic Graffics are placed in busy, high-visibility areas with clear views from as many angles as possible, Hershman said.

The core downtown is a hub for the Traffic Graffics, trickling down Pacific Highway, 320th, and along 1st Avenue in Federal Way.

Once a location is picked and a theme is chosen, then the Arts Commission calls for artists to submit designs. The Traffic Graffics committee will review the submissions and select a winner. Graphics are then digitally printed on vinyl wraps, sized to fit the specific utility box.

“It really turns a drab and dreary intersection into something fun and lively,” Hershman said, adding that the boxes also discourage tagging or other forms of graffiti. “If it makes you smile, then it has done its job.”

Hershman’s favorite is the Sasquatch-themed utility box by Margie Sheeley, which stares at the traffic whizzing by near South 352nd and Pacific Highway, because “the Sasquatch is right there in plain sight. That’s the point, you just have to look.”

It just makes living in Federal Way a little more fun and a lot more interesting, he said.

“You’re living in the world of art without even thinking about it,” Hershman said. “You’re enjoying an aesthetic in your everyday experience.”

The Traffic Graffic committee is calling for artists to submit their designs to fit the upcoming utility box design theme of cats.

If you’d like to submit, applications and more information can be found on the Federal Way Arts Commission website.

Dan Hershman, left, stands with Decatur High School student Samantha Mendoza-Rojas, right, at the unveiling of her art piece on the corner of South 320th Street and 11 Place South in Federal Way. Photo courtesy of the Federal Way Arts Commission

Dan Hershman, left, stands with Decatur High School student Samantha Mendoza-Rojas, right, at the unveiling of her art piece on the corner of South 320th Street and 11 Place South in Federal Way. Photo courtesy of the Federal Way Arts Commission

More in News

‘Fighting fire with fire’: Prop 1 controversy heats up as marijuana retailer proponents also put up illegal sign

Yes on Prop 1 campaign also puts sign up along Pacific Highway South in response to property owner’s illegal sign opposing measure.

Malena Gaces, left, and other members of Washington CAN protest unfair move-out charges and alleged discriminatory behavior outside Kitts Corner Apartments in Federal Way in 2018. Sound Publishing file photo
King County could increase tenant protections

The council is considering ordinances designed to help renters.

Federal Way council members raise issues with Microsoft’s affordable housing investment

City did not have a say in purchase of Federal Way apartments, council members say, as they question whether this solution is the right fit for Federal Way.

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
The smoky summer that wasn’t

While Washington had a mild season, wildfires burned near the Arctic.

‘I will pay the fines’: Property owner violates city code with large sign opposing marijuana retail in Federal Way

Sign stirs controversy over property owner’s donation of building space to city for potential police substation.

Lakehaven Water and Sewer Commissioner Timothy McClain dies at 72

Lakehaven prepares for potential appointment should voters elect McClain posthumously.

Federal Way school board candidates discuss school safety, equity at forum

Incumbent Luckisha Phillips, Tenya Magruder to compete for Position 3; incumbent Dr. Jennifer Jones seeks Position 2 against no-show challenger Elizabeth Carlson.

Former classmates, teachers remember murdered Federal Way teen

Sarah Yarborough was strangled on FWHS campus in December 1991; her suspected killer was arrested nearly three decades later on Oct. 2.

Federal Way police searching for one suspect after armed robbery at Subway shop

FWPD have detained one possible second suspect, according to Cmdr. Kurt Schwan.

Most Read