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Artists to think outside the box for The Hub's latest project

With local public art in bloom these days, it's a welcome addition for The Hub of Bakersfield's latest Cash for the Arts program, which will provide artists the chance to use their skills to beautify our community.

It's even better that this latest project is expanding its reach further into the city's urban core, focusing on art in Old Town Kern, east Bakersfield and Homaker Park, a neighborhood between Chester and Union avenues extending north from 34th Street.

"The mission of The Hub is to uplift and revitalize that urban core," said Miranda Whitworth, who chairs the Cash for the Arts committee. "We have a focus on downtown Bakersfield ... but it has always been our intention to spread the love through these neighborhoods."

Starting Thursday, artists can apply for a grant to beautify one of 10 utility boxes located near the intersections of Beale Avenue and East 19th Street, Monterey Street and Beale Avenue, Flower Street and Beale Avenue, Niles and Baker, Baker and Sumner streets, Bernard Street and Union Avenue, 34th Street and Memorial Hospital Drive, San Dimas and 34th Street, Q and 34th streets, and Jewett Avenue and 34th Street.

“We want to see artwork that tells the story of the neighborhood, the diversity of its residents and the significance it holds for the artists," Andrae Gonzales, The Hub's board chairman, said in a news release. “This is a chance to celebrate the nuances of East Bakersfield, Old Town Kern and Homaker Park and it will take the hearts of local artists to make this project a success.”

This is the second round of Cash for the Arts, with the first held last spring, funding projects including public art by Jorge Guillen and Brandon Thompson, Belinda Rickett, Creative Crossing and Juliana Gonzalez, aka Createasea.

Whitworth said the nonprofit is able to keep the program going thanks to grant funds from the county. That also allowed The Hub to commission the recently completed Bloom Mural, which spans the entirety of the Beale Avenue overpass between Kentucky and Jackson streets. (Additional sponsors also aided that $25,000 project.)

"From the Bloom Mural and continuing through with these utility boxes, this public art has been so well-received," Whitworth said. "We've worked with Creative Crossing and funded other murals through (the first) Cash for the Arts."

The theme of the latest project is "Celebrating diverse visions," and the goal is to find artists with a connection to these areas.

"We want to see something that is positive, celebrating a different voice, a different point of view," Whitworth said. "Maybe their grandma lived there or they went to school down the street."

Proposed imagery should be positive and viewable for those walking or driving in the neighborhoods.

"We want the artwork to reveal to the people passing by what that neighborhood is about or what the future for that neighborhood is," Whitworth said.

Artists are encouraged to detail their personal connection in their application, which is due by March 15.

Grant recipients will be announced March 31, receiving $500 as well as $100 for paint and other supplies. Work is slated to be completed by April 16. 

"We’re getting people out on the street when the weather is nice," Whitworth said. "Put them up in the springtime when people are out enjoying their neighborhoods."

Although Cash for the Arts sprung from a need to create and connect during the pandemic, Whitworth expects it to endure.

"COVID is going to go away but this program isn't. We're nurturing our community through grants."

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.