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NMSU art students decorate electrical enclosures

Olive green electrical boxes on the New Mexico State University Las Cruces campus are drab, but necessary to protect the campus electrical infrastructure, however, they also are graffiti magnets. Two agencies on campus have collaborated to change that.

A man paints an electrical enclosure.
Patrick Shaffer, a student in Art 350, paints an electrical enclosure near Williams Hall in collaboration with Facilities and Services to reduce graffiti and beautify campus. (NMSU photo by Emily C. Kelley)
Two men work on an art project.
Craig Cully (left) and Joshua Flores work on a public art project covering an electrical enclosure on campus. (NMSU photo by Emily C. Kelley)
Two women paint an electrical enclosure.
Isabel Ramos (back) and Mariah Morrell (front) paint an electrical enclosure near Williams Hall in collaboration with Facilities and Services to reduce graffiti and beautify campus. (NMSU photo by Emily C. Kelley)

Glen Haubold, NMSU associate vice president for facilities, had recently attended a conference at Northern Arizona University, and had Michael Luchau from the Facilities and Services electrical shop approach the Department of Art about an idea he had seen at the conference.

?While teaching the APPA Supervisor?s Toolkit at Northern Arizona, I saw some painted electrical enclosures and began asking about them,? Haubold said. ?The class is a new supervisor training developed by an organization of facilities professionals, and one reason I teach at other universities is to learn ideas from other schools that we can use at NMSU. The idea as graffiti control is not new; Santa Fe has artwork on traffic control boxes.?

Craig Cully, associate professor of painting and drawing, teaches Art 350 and incorporated three electrical enclosure projects near the art building into his class.

?They contacted us and asked if our students would be interested, and I built this project into our class,? Cully said. ?The project looks at pop art, with the bright colors and patterning that are associated with it. We filtered that through ideas of abstraction to come up with a design.?

The 30 students in the class came up with three initial designs each, then whittled the possibilities down to one final design per student. A team comprised of both Facilities and Services and Department of Art representatives voted on three final designs the students would install on the electrical enclosures near the art building by the end of the semester. Luchau worked with the Department of Art to procure necessary materials and participated in the selection of the final designs.

The largest of the three enclosures is located between Williams Hall and Panda Express, just off University Avenue. Gabriella Flynn designed this project.

?She?s come up with this very festive looking design ? all these different geometric shapes with patterning of triangles, circles and dashes on it,? Cully said.

?What we once had were these kind of invisible drab green, sort of dark green boxes. While there was certainly nothing offensive about them, they certainly weren?t beautifying the campus at all,? Cully said. ?On the one hand, these projects say, ?Hey, welcome to NMSU. Look at how fun we are. This is the Department of Art; look at how creative our students are.? And on the other hand, it acts to keep the graffiti down. It really engages the eye.?

One of the other two projects is located at the southwest corner of Williams Hall, this one designed by Joshua Flores, and the other is located across the parking lot near the English Building, designed by Monique Harrison.

Daniel Lauterbach, senior in fine art with an emphasis on painting, says the conditions for completing the projects have been challenging.

?We?ve probably been working on this for about three weeks now. The most challenging part has been the New Mexico winds. They pick up, the tarp flies in our face, the paint starts dripping everywhere ? that?s probably been the biggest challenge,? Lauterbach said.

?I just want to say how proud I am of my students,? Cully said. ?Once the projects are done and the community sees how awesome they are, and Facilities sees how wonderful they are, they?re going to ask us to do every one of them on campus over the next couple of years. We?re hoping for that to happen.?