Mundelein utility boxes become canvas for public art project

Lake County's latest public art program launched this week in Mundelein with the completion of three painted utility boxes.

Local artists decorated the metal boxes, each with different designs and themes. Costs were covered by the village.

The utility boxes chosen for the project are owned by the village, and along Seymour Avenue, between Hammond Street and Route 176.

The effort is small because it's a test program, but officials said it could expand.

Artist Kyle Smith decorated a box on the 300 block of North Seymour Avenue, near the Lake County Center for Independent Living. His piece features a different design on each side.

Two of the paintings have musical themes. A third depicts sound waves. The fourth side has a set of railroad tracks approaching a horizon.

"I love railroad tracks," Smith said. "I love walking on them."

Artist Mary Hecht went in a different direction for her project on the 400 block of North Seymour Avenue. She painted kids reading outside Mundelein's Fremont Public Library and at a park.

A teacher at Mechanics Grove Elementary School in Mundelein, Hecht said she wanted her artwork to promote literacy.

"Reading is one of my favorite hobbies," she said. "It's so important for our community."

Graphic designer Jen Kehrer was assigned the third box. She symbolically depicted Mundelein's cultural diversity with overlapping flowers and geometric patterns.

"I was trying to represent that in a colorful and vibrant way, so the piece is called 'Vibrant Layers,'" Kehrer said.

Village Trustee Holly Kim oversaw the projects and was thrilled with the results.

"For next year, I hope we get more," Kim said

Mundelein is no stranger to whimsical public art.

Inspired by Chicago's famed Cows on Parade exhibit, a painted, fiberglass cow was displayed at various locations throughout the village about a decade ago. Additionally, the local library hosted a display of miniature painted cows.

Lincolnshire and Wauconda also launched public art projects this summer. Lincolnshire's consists of giant painted apples, while Wauconda's is a collection of colorful benches.

Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove and Long Grove are among the other suburbs that have had public art exhibitions in recent years.

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  Artist Jen Kehrer talks about the design she chose for a public art project in Mundelein. Russell Lissau/
Artist Mary Hecht, right, and daughter Kristin Cropper paint a utility box on north Seymour Avenue in Mundelein as part of a public art project. The painting depicts children reading outside the Fremont Public Library and at a park. Photo Courtesy of Mary Hecht
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