On and out of the box

Art Utility Box by Nicole Flett '18Rising junior Nicole Flett leaves her mark on her home away from home in Cambridge.

By Harvard Arts Blog

Last month the Harvard Square Business Association unveiled the Utility Box Art Project, a public art installation in and around Harvard Square consisting of 12 utility boxes painted by local artists and students. One of the latter was Nicole Flett '18, a concentrator in East Asian Studies who painted a box next to Winthrop Park at the Corner of Mt. Auburn and JFK streets in collaboration with Montita Sowapark '18. Harvard Arts Blog asked Nicole about her participation in what has rapidly become a popular art form in the Greater Boston area. 

Nicole Flett '18
Nicole Flett '18

What was the inspiration for your contribution to this project?
I was attracted to the project itself because it was an opportunity to show my artistic side in a way that would have an impact on more than just my emotions, and in a way that could leave my mark on a city that has become my home away from home in Oklahoma. I wanted to do a small homage to Asian culture, because it's pretty important to people within Harvard and people coming to visit. I was planning to use quotes from different languages—and on the Japanese side is a tribute of sorts to my first Japanese teacher from high school who passed away my senior year.

Flett and Sowapark
Nicole Flett '18 (left) with Montita Sowapark ‘18 at Winthrop Park, Harvard Square.

What challenges, if any, did you have working on it?
Actually between getting ready for spring term finals and final classes, essays and assignments, the most difficult challenge was managing the time to do the project once the window to complete it was opened. I found out that my idea of working through the night wouldn’t work well because it got so cold I couldn’t paint without shaking, but it ended up working out and I got it done on time! Another challenge was not being able to complete my design because of a misunderstanding that led to the other half of my box being painted by others.

What in your opinion is the value of the project, and the value of public art in general?
At first I did this project for me and for the city as a way of thanking it for being my home, but I came to realize just by working on it that it means so much more. The people who came up to me while I was working were always very friendly and supportive, and it’s been a very humbling and eye-opening experience to realize how much of an impact the project really has. The greatest part of the experience was hearing older gentlemen saying thank you because they’d been living in Cambridge for 25 years and were grateful that people were working to make it a more beautiful place, and also meeting families who said they loved going around with their kids and picking their favorite pictures to go back to.

F&S utility box art piece.
Flett and Sowapark's utility box art piece.