Ramona is beautifying its community with a project to cover 17 SDG&E utility boxes with murals by the end of summer.
Lauren Chiara is the first artist to paint her design on a utility box in front of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department substation on Montecito Road, just off Main Street.
“My overall design is cactus and succulents, very popular plants up here in Ramona,” said Chiara.
Four designs were initially approved by the Ramona Design Review Board.
Local residents hope the painted boxes will draw more attention to their small town.
“I think it brings more life to our community,” said Ramona resident Jason Lane. “It brightens it up. I like the art aspect of it.”
A second approved design will feature books and will be painted on the utility box outside of the Ramona Branch county library.
The other two designs are quintessential Ramona: people riding horses and an image of Mount Woodson.
A grant from the Ramona Community Foundation will cover a small honorarium for the artists.
“Maybe people will stop and visit the different businesses in Ramona instead of driving through to Julian and to the desert,” said Ramona resident Cheryl Wright.
The endeavor to beautify the community is an expansion of the Ramona H.E.A.R.T. Mural Project.
Sixteen pieces already line Main Street, and two additional murals will be unveiled by the end of June.
The goal is to add about 20 more large murals in Ramona's historical district over the next few years.
Those paintings can be daunting, so a smaller canvas, such as the utility box project, encourages students and less experienced artists to develop their workmanship.
“We’re also trying to get students involved," said Chiara. "Something smaller-scale might be less intimidating for them."
Isobel Maehler, 13, a student at Ramona Middle School, helped Chiara paint the utility box outside of the sheriff substation.
The mural project also gives artists an opportunity to experiment and paint a different surface.
“It’s the first time I've ever painted on metal, first time I've done a mural,” Chiara added.
Three additional utility box designs have just been cleared by the design board.
Design applications are still being accepted for the other 10 SDG&E utility boxes.