2022 Utility Box Artists

The artwork of Kristen Kong and Shanna Struss were approved on May 23, 2022 as the finalists of 2022 Utility Box Public Art Program.

Kristen Kong

"GO GREEN"  located at Moeser Ln./Navallier St.

Artist Description of Artwork: One of the most effective ways to make El Cerrito a more environmentally sustainable city is for individuals and families to make positive changes to their daily routines. When we reduce our car dependency by walking, cycling, using public transit, or carpooling, we reduce traffic congestion and pollution. As part of a healthy lifestyle, walking and cycling have the added benefit of increasing fitness. Meanwhile, carpooling helps people build stronger relationships with other members of the community.

Go Green

"THE DIVERSE HISTORY OF EL CERRITO"  located at Colusa Ave./Fairmount Ave.

Artist Description of Artwork: By putting the spotlight on people of color, this utility box highlights El Cerrito’s rich history. The art aims to uplift the BIPOC community and encourage everyone to embrace El Cerrito's citizens that contributed to the city’s cultural fabric. Using bright colors, artful portraiture, and hand-painted text, this piece of public art highlights notable El Cerrito locals past and present, such as news anchor Belva Davis, baseball legend Pumpsie Green, and author Gail Tsukiyama. Research

The Diverse History of El Cerrito
2022 Utility Box Art Finalist Kristen KongKristen Kong is a contemporary illustrator and muralist based in El Cerrito whose style blends whimsy with the modern era. She graduated from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California with a BFA in Illustration. Her work has been featured at Public Works, the Little Lodge Galleries in San Francisco, and Gallery 50 in Toronto. Her clients include the California Academy of Sciences Museum, Zillow, and the Sierra Club. This body of work reflects her long held intention to bring people who are often overlooked to the forefront of visual storytelling. Whether it’s short comics, murals, infographics or book illustration, she strives to capture a story with a knack for leaving you with a warm fuzzy feeling. Visit kristenkong.com and Instagram @kristen_kong_illustration to see her work.

Shanna Strauss

"OUR LEGACY"  located at Carlson Blvd./Central Ave.

Our Legacy
Artist Description of Artwork: Black women have always played a key role in liberation movements across the African diaspora, yet they have often been overlooked or under-acknowledged for their contributions. This design pays homage to Black women who have fought for freedom and who have created models of resistance and community care that we should remember, honor and strive for. The foreground portrait is inspired by reference images of Tereza de Benguela who was a quilombola freedom fighter, activist and community leader in Brazil during the 1700s. As an enslaved Black woman, she organized and led the successful escape of a group of Black and Indigenous people, and subsequently founded the Quariterê quilombo community that provided a safe haven for 200 people who had escaped slavery and forced labor. For two decades she led the political, economical and administrative structure of the quilombola and maintained the defense system against any invasions until the community was brutally attacked and destroyed by Portuguese colonizers. Through her commitment to freedom and love of community, Tereza de Benguela provided a safe place and protection for those who needed it the most. The background pattern is rendered from a Kanga design, a fabric worn by women in Tanzania. I often use Kanga patterns in my work to pay homage to the women warriors in my family lineage who fought against colonization and oppression in Tanzania, and who continue to inspire me in my own work as an artist. Through this artwork I hope that the El Cerrito community, and especially our youth, will be inspired to think about and learn from the long legacy of Black women who are models of resistance against oppression and who have paved a way for contemporary struggles and movements.

2022 Utility Box Art Program Finalist Shanna StraussShanna Strauss is a Tanzanian-American mixed media artist. Her work explores oral histories, ancestral memory and spirituality in African diasporic traditions, paying homage to radical Black women across the African Diaspora. Shanna holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the California College of Arts and a Masters of Social Work from McGill University. She has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationally and abroad. Her work has been acquired by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Euphrat Museum of Art and the University of California, San Francisco.
Public art and community engagement are also a part of her practice. Her commitment to radical social transformation has inspired the creation of collaborative projects and public murals that center the experiences and stories of BIPoC individuals and communities. Her public artworks can be seen in Montreal, Tucson, San Francisco and Sacramento.

In 2020 Shanna was awarded the Prix Powerhouse from La Centrale Galerie in Montreal and the Kala Fellowship Award from Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, California. Visit ShannaStrauss.co to learn more about her work.