When graphic artist and illustrator Steve Burrows looks at a curbside utility box, he sees a blank canvas. A sign painter by trade (Burrito Art), he recently turned an SDG&E-owned box, on the northwest corner of Newcastle Avenue and Liverpool Drive, into a classic, 21-window VW bus.
The 101 Main Street Association — Cardiff by the Sea’s chamber of commerce — received a $4000 grant from the City of Encinitas to turn several downtown Cardiff boxes into what is being labeled as “utility art boxes.”
Another artist has completed one box on Newcastle Avenue and several more are in the works, said the chamber’s director, Annika Walden. “The money was given through the city by the Mizal Foundation,” she said.
Burrows presented his design sketches to the approval of the Main Street Association and SDG&E. It took Burrows 11 hours to complete the five-sided project, which he began with a sketch made with a marker. He used acrylic paints, which he says will last for years.
“I really had to research the old VW buses,” said Burrows. “I had to get it right. I’ve got a friend who’s a VW bus collector, and I would have heard from him if it wasn’t.”
While he was finishing up the project last week, residents came by to offer their support, saying how cool the bus looked and how much it helped to beautify the back of the Seaside Market building. The only challenge Burrows had was a dog that came by nightly to pee on the box. “It always was on the back left tire,” said Burrows.
Historical footnote: Formerly known as the Volkswagen T-2 Samba model, aficionados call it a “21-window.” Volkswagen produced it from 1951 to 1966, originally designed for touring the Alps. Today, it is among the rarest of VWs. Currently, a 1966 showroom-quality 21-window is selling for $149,000 on eBay. On a recent episode of American Pickers, co-star Mike Wolfe paid $10,000 for a rusted-out body with shrubbery growing through it.