The city of Issaquah has been recognized with the 2018 Innovation Award for Arts and Culture from Sister Cities International for an arts initiative that has brought color and life to the city utility boxes.
In 2017 the Issaquah Arts Commission collaborated with artists from Issaquah’s sister cities of Chefchaouen, Morocco and Sunndal, Norway to apply original artwork to city utility boxes at two locations in the city.
Artwork from Moroccan artist Aziz Amrani is featured at the intersection of Seventh Avenue Northwest and Gilman Boulevard. Amrani’s piece, www.issaquahreporter.comd “Composition,” features painted musical souls depicted through color and emotion.
At the intersection of Second Avenue Southeast and Sunset Way, art by Norwegian artist Bergjlot Hals is featured. Her piece, “Journey,” depicts a scene from Norwegian folklore drawn in lead pencil.
In a press release, Mayor Mary Lou Pauly shared her gratitude for the sister city relationships that have been fostered and that have led to the artwork beautifying the city.
“We value the 10-year relationship the city has had with Chefchaouen, Morocco as well as the newly rekindled relationship with Sunndal, Norway. This cross-cultural project has increased the knowledge and awareness of our sister cities within our community,” Pauly said. “By wrapping utility boxes with art, we’ve turned the ordinary into extraordinary, beautified an intersection and created conversation within our community.”
Robin Kelley, chair of the Sister Cities Commission, said the collaboration with artists was an effort to beautify the city and also find a unique way to depict art.
“It reinforces the importance of these relationships, one-on-one diplomacy, sharing of different cultures,” Kelley said. “They are very different areas and people and cultures. They form a relationship with the community. The artists come for a week, and by the time they leave they feel like you’ve known them forever.”
The Sister Cities Commission has more programs scheduled for 2019, and it will feature Moroccon singer Hamid El Hadri at its booth during Salmon Days. Some of the planned programs include working with schools to set up classroom pen pals with their partner cities, a yearbook exchange and art walk collaborations.