Painting Outside the Box

Call For Artists: Portland Downtown Seeks Local Artists for new utility box painting project

Painting Outside the Box will integrate art into existing public utility boxes to beautify the urban landscape, increase civic participation, and support the local arts community.

Photo: Jared Goulette, The Color Wizard


Painting Outside the Box: The Utility Box Art Project: Artists to Enhance Utility Boxes in downtown Portland 

Portland Downtown invites Maine artists to integrate art into existing public utility boxes to beautify the urban landscape, increase civic participation, and support the local arts community.  

Project Overview 

Painting Outside the Box: The Utility Box Art Project, organized by Portland Downtown, is focused on the recognition and celebration of local artists. All submissions for the competition will be reviewed by a selection panel and artists will be selected based on the content and quality of their work. Selected artists will paint City of Portland utility boxes with original designs. Once professionally painted, these utility boxes will contribute to the vitality and attractiveness of the urban streetscape.  


– Artists must live in or have permanent office or studio space in Maine, with preference given to artists in the Greater Portland area.  

– Artists must be 18 or older.  

– Up to three (3) designs by each Portland artist may be considered. 

– Designs may be submitted on paper or electronically but must conform to the utility box template as provided in Appendix A.

– Selected designs will be made by a selection panel; appointed by Portland Downtown and in consultation with the Portland Public Art Committee. 

– Submissions may be kept on file for future project consideration. 

– Proposals must be received or postmarked for delivery on or before June 23, 2023.  

– Artists will be notified by July 10, 2023, if their designs are selected. 

Winning Artists 

Selected artists will receive $650.00 in funding for each utility box project. 50% of the Funds will be allocated upon approval of each box design. Artists are responsible for the cost of all materials required to design, prepare, complete, and protect their artwork with a clear and washable sealant. Additionally, artists are responsible for their own travel and accommodation costs. A final 50% payment will be made to artists upon completion of the utility box painting.  Judges reserve the right to make a selection contingent upon design changes.


Design Guidelines 

– Artwork must be original. Artists must be willing to represent their work by the artist’s name or studio brand. No anonymous designs will be accepted.

-All designs must be in color. No black-and-white designs will be accepted.

– Artwork must avoid dark palettes in an effort to prevent boxes from overheating. Designs may be representational or abstract but must respond to the urban context and be appropriate given the location and setting.  

– Please note that utility box size may vary. Selected artists must be willing to adjust designs to their particular box. 

– Proposed designs should be submitted on the 8.5” x 11” template included in Appendix A of the application form.  

– Utility boxes shall not contain text or advertisements. 

– The operational parts of the boxes (hinges, vents, locks, and keyholes) cannot be painted over and must be protected during the installation period. 

– A complete list of supplies and materials used for preparation, painting, and clear coating of the utility box must be provided.  

– All priming and artwork must be completed with exterior grade paints and sealed with an exterior grade clear coat within 2 hours of completion or immediately after all paint has dried. 

– The utility boxes must be scraped, sanded, cleaned, and primed before artists begin painting. Artists shall tape over functional areas (hinges/vents/handles/locks) and apply a coat of an exterior grade primer before commencing with the design. Applied paint must not interfere with the operation of the box’s hinges, vents, locks, and the legibility of any cautionary text located on the box. 

– Artists must supply their own water and all supplies. (drop cloth, sanding materials, brushes, and paints). Drop cloths must be used at all times while painting.  

– Artists are responsible for protecting their work from the elements and possible vandalism with a coat of exterior grade clear coat sealant. 

– Passage on the sidewalk for pedestrians must be maintained at all times. Blocking of traffic or  lanes of the street may only be done in coordination with project staff and City officials.  

– Artists may be contacted to provide touch ups if needed. This will be scoped separately from this initial project and on an as needed basis.  Artists will be compensated incrementally for any touch ups required.


Application for the Portland Utility Box Art Project 

This two-page application and Appendix A (Design Template) for each design must be submitted for  each artist. Submit all materials via email or regular mail to: 



Subject:  Painting Outside the Box: The Utility Box Art Project 2023



Betsy Boyd

Community Outreach & Engagement Manager

Portland Downtown

PO Box 8593, Portland, ME 04104

Please include the following information

Artist or Organization Name: 

Mailing Address: 



Website (OPTIONAL but preferred): 

Application Checklist 

Completed Application with artist signature, printed name, and date (2-page form) 

Designs (up to 3), in color, with the title of work and materials list written on Appendix A (1-page form) 

Artist statement of intent, description of the concept, and approach 

Curriculum vitae or resume (OPTIONAL)


Terms of Agreement 

The undersigned artist hereby agrees to the following terms: 

– The work submitted by the artist is original, solely owned by the artist, and reproduction will not  violate the rights of any third party. Since the artistic designs leading up to and including the  final design and dimension of the artwork are unique, the artist shall not make any additional,  exact duplicate reproductions of the final design and dimension, nor shall the artist grant to a  third party, the right to replicate the artistic designs and dimensions of the artwork, without the  written permission of the City of Portland. 

– The accepted artwork developed under this contract shall be the exclusive property of the City of Portland.  

– The artist grants to the City of Portland and the organizational affiliates of this project; specifically Portland Downtown, The Portland Public Art Committee and Portland Creative; an irrevocable license to make reproductions of the artwork and the final designs to be used in brochures, media, publicity, catalogs, or other  similar publications.  

– The artwork may be removed and/or destroyed at any time without notification of the artist to  accommodate utility box maintenance, repair, or replacement.  

– The City of Portland has the right to paint over my design for any reason including deterioration due to weather or vandalism. The City of Portland may also elect to contact artists to further preserve or maintain the artwork.  



Artist Signature

Print Name:


Dated:  _____/______/2023

NOTE: Design Template (Appendix A)

Please use the utility box template below to illustrate your design proposal in color.  Designs must be submitted electronically by email or physically by regular mail on standard 8.5” x 11”  paper.  

Please note that the dimensions of the template do not accurately represent all utility box dimensions.  In fact, the front of the utility box may exceed or be smaller than the general dimension of 24” x 36”. As such, the proposed design must be adjustable based on the size of the utility box awarded. Please include your name, the title of the work, and a materials list for each design (up to 3) submitted. 

Utility Box design template

Thank you for your interest! This form is now closed.