Electrifying the streets

By Cassidy Klein

Urban art beautifies, celebrates community in North Park

Freshly painted electrical boxes in the streets of North Park are not only adding a “sparkle” to pedestrian paths, but to the artists who painted them, the boxes are expressions of positivity and friendship within the community.

Normal Heights artist Taina Berardi (left) and her husband painting their electrical box on the corner of University Avenue and Ray Street (Photo by Connor McBride)

“The real thing we wanted to do [with the painted boxes] is to just make our district sparkle,” said Jake Romero, assistant director of North Park Main Street Association. “[We also want] to really highlight that there’s still amazing art in North Park. People forget that there’s good art and live art.”

On March 31, 10 artists spent the day painting their original designs on boxes throughout the neighborhood. The artists were selected through an application process put on by North Park Main Street (NPMS). Though boxes in North Park have been painted in the past, this was the first time NPMS put on an event for the public to come out and interact with the artists as they painted.

There was live music as well as restaurant and store specials during the event. Local musicians Jasmine Bailey, Nate Hess, Drew Smith and Matthew Armstrong performed in front of local storefronts.

Normal Heights artist Taina Berardi hopes her box will “inspire people to create art.” She painted the San Diego mountains, desert and coastline in vibrant colors on her box.

“Colors express a lot of emotion and get people happier and more excited,” Berardi said. “[My box] is very much in the style of Mexican pottery or Mexican art, so that was my homage to my culture. We are also a border city, so there’s a lot of influence being so close to Mexico, and a lot of our residents speak Spanish.”

Berardi recently started her own jewelry and art company, Jewel of the Gypsy, after spending the last 12 years in the corporate tech world. She sells her jewelry online via her Etsy shop and at various farmers markets throughout San Diego.

Her art, including her box, is inspired by her “wanderlust” life and global view. This year’s box was her first physical mural in a public space.

“At the end of last year I decided to explore my art further, and creating this box was kind of at the crossroads of that,” Berardi said.

A local artist works on his project outside of Subterranean Coffee Boutique, 3764 30th St. (Photo by Connor McBride)

Mandy Jouan, another participant who lives in Vista, painted neon rabbits on her box. She too hopes her box will bring a smile to the passerby.

“I love black lights and bright colors, and I just really like rabbits,” Jouan said. “Hopefully [my box] is something to just make people happy.”

Jouan said she’s thankful for the chance to paint and bring playfulness to North Park.

“I didn’t [paint a box] for money; I didn’t do it for exposure,” Jouan said. “I know when I was painting it, there were so many people that stopped by who were just so excited to have something in their neighborhood look better.”

Berardi said she loved the positive energy radiating from community members who stopped by to watch her and her husband at work during the nine hours it took them to complete the box.

“When we were painting the box, it was such a great feeling because people from the neighborhood and outside the neighborhood were thanking us, and sitting there, and being so grateful on a Saturday that we were beautifying the neighborhood,” Berardi said. “It makes me happy that I’m living in a community where people acknowledge and give value to art on a larger scale.”

Mandy Jouan’s finished box, located on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Iowa Street (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Uptown’s urban art scene is growing, according to Berardi. She encourages artists to keep creating and be on the lookout for future art contests and chances to paint boxes. Normal Heights Urban Art Association will soon be calling for artists to paint electrical boxes in their neighborhood.

“I wanted to give back to the community,” Berardi said. “I think there’s a lot of budding young artists out there who given the opportunity would create amazing designs.”

Berardi hopes the newly painted boxes will remind people to care for the community and appreciate the shared urban spaces of North Park.

“I think art creates positivity, and I know at the root of it all, people get energy from art,” Berardi said. “And therefore maybe [people will] see a little piece of trash around the area and go, ‘You know what, I respect the person that put this art here to beautify the neighborhood, so I will do my part to beautify the neighborhood.’ From visitors to residents it helps create a space where people are proud to be a part of that neighborhood and that community.”

Find a painted box in front of these locations:

  • AB Sporting Goods at 3027 University Ave.
  • Saiko Sake & Sushi Bar at 2884 University Ave.
  • The Original Paw Pleasers / Peticures by Tess at 2818 University Ave.
  • Daisy Cleaners at 3994 30th St.
  • True North at 3815 30th St.
  • F45 Training North Park at 3800 30th St.
  • Subterranean Coffee Boutique at 3764 30th St.
  • Influx Cafe at 3000 Upas St.

—Cassidy Klein is an editorial intern at San Diego Community News Network, the parent company of the San Diego Uptown News. Reach her at

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