New public art project will decorate city's utility boxes

The Detroit Lakes Arts and Culture Commission has undertaken a project to decorate six of the city's public utility boxes with original artwork. A tentative unveiling is set for September.

Utility box courthouse.jpg
This utility box across from the Becker County Courthouse is one of six in Detroit Lakes being considered for decoration as part of a public art project organized by the city's Arts and Culture Commission. The project is tentatively scheduled for completion this summer, subject to the approval of the Detroit Lakes Public Utilities Commission and the City Council.
Contributed / Detroit Lakes Arts and Culture Commission

DETROIT LAKES — Six of Detroit Lakes Public Utilities' green power boxes are expected to get a bit of a facelift this summer, thanks to a public art project being undertaken by the city's Arts and Culture Commission (ACC).

The commission started hammering out details for the project on Wednesday, Feb. 22, with plans to seek approval — and funding — from DLPU at its next meeting on Wednesday, March 7.

The commission set an initial budget of $6,000 for the project, along with the location of the six power boxes to be decorated — though these are subject to DLPU approval. A seventh location has also been identified if sufficient funding is available.

Utility box map.jpg
A map of the six projected utility box locations for the new "Detroit Lakes Energy" public art project was presented at the Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023 meeting of the Detroit Lakes Arts and Culture Commission.
Contributed / Detroit Lakes Arts and Culture Commission

"DL Public Utilities has allowed us to consider the larger electrical boxes (for decoration)," said Arts and Culture Commission member Nancy Haggart, adding that DLPU will need to give its initial approval for which boxes are to be decorated, as well as final approval once the artwork has been chosen.

The commission is using a similar concept to one used for the decoration of utility boxes in Fargo , though those boxes are smaller than the ones being considered for the Detroit Lakes project.


Fargo utility box.jpg
This decorated utility box in Fargo is an example of the concept being used for a similar project in Detroit Lakes.
Contributed / Detroit Lakes Arts and Culture Commission

The ACC is contracting with Trophy House of Detroit Lakes to provide the vinyl wraps of the original artwork that will be placed on the power boxes. They approved Trophy House as the contractor at their Wednesday meeting, as well as a $500 stipend for each of the six artists that will be chosen to provide the artwork for the project. The stipend is expected to cover all of the artists' expenses.

Though the artists will be encouraged to create unique works of art for the project, it will have a central theme: "Detroit Lakes Energy." Beyond the theme, designs must also be free of profanity, and cannot contain anything that is political, defamatory, derogatory or otherwise potentially offensive in nature. The commission is in the process of finalizing the application and other paperwork that must be filled out by the artists submitting entries for the project.

A tentative timeline has also been established: If DLPU approves their proposal on March 7, the commission will begin soliciting entries from artists, with a deadline of May 1 for design concepts to be submitted. A judging panel (yet to be selected) will then review the entries and choose the six artists whose work will be included in the project, with the chosen designs to be submitted to the city for final approval.

The wraps for the utility boxes will then be created and installed over the course of the summer, with a mid-September unveiling if all of the pieces fall into place as originally planned.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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