You probably walk by utility boxes every day without noticing. But if that utility box is splattered with vivid colors and a woman’s piercing stare, her head crowned in wildflowers, you might stop and stare.
Beautifying everyday objects to bring art into public spaces is the goal of Midtown Association’s Art in Unexpected Places initiative. Launched in 2016, the program has covered 21 trash receptacles, 13 utility boxes and six dumpsters across Midtown.
Robert Regis Dvorak is an artist’s artist. He paints, draws, writes and sings. He teaches. He works in watercolor, oil, acrylic, ink, etching, woodcuts and silk screen. He’s filled more than 300 sketchbooks, many during trips abroad. Even after decades as a professional artist, he has ideas that will keep him busy for years.
“When you’re an artist, you do what your heart leads you to do,” Dvorak says. “If I had any sense about me, I would have gone into music—the path was there. But I really didn’t want to. I enjoyed drawing.”
Dvorak hails from a musical family (yes, he’s related to Antonin Dvorak, the Czech composer), but knew from an early age he wanted to be a visual artist. His parents were concerned he wouldn’t make enough money. They convinced him to try architecture.
Tracy Tayama Brady lives by a maxim from one of her favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert: “Art is not one magical thing—it’s the act of creating.”
Though Tayama (who uses her maiden name as an artist) has made art since she can remember, it’s only now with two kids and a career as a child psychologist that she’s in a place to understand what it means to be an artist.
As she lists her proudest achievement, Semarhy Quiñones-Soto doesn’t mention her Ph.D. in microbiology or her published coloring book depicting diverse women in science, tech, engineering and math. She doesn’t even cite her job as a biological sciences lecturer at Sacramento State.
Instead, she returns to when she was a teenager and her mother allowed her into a lab at the University of Puerto Rico and let the youngster clean the autoclave—an expensive sterilization machine.
Anya Warda is a proud tree hugger.
“I love greenery, exercising, fresh air, sunshine, going outside and being with nature,” she says. “I’m a tree hugger. That’s who I am—that’s what my life experience has made me.”
Warda’s love of nature is more than aesthetic. She’s thankful to walk, much less hug a tree.
At age 26, the native of Poland was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a debilitating autoimmune disorder that attacks the joints and makes them painful and swollen. Determined not to be in a wheelchair, she took matters into her own hands.