[UPDATE: Pedraza cleared of all charges] Artist Tony Pedraza Arrested for Painting Utility Box in DTSA

ubap_box_Tony_Pedraza.jpg
Courtesy Tony Pedraza
Tony Pedroza's utility box art in progress

Update to the story at the bottom of the page. A local artist involved in helping build downtown SanTana's public art scene was arrested July 2nd for painting a utility box on Sycamore and Civic Center.

Tony Pedraza, a young muralist and painter from SanTana, painted the gunmetal gray caja after noticing other utility boxes in the city's downtown were being decorated through a city-commissioned art beautification program. Three days into his own project, a police officer approached Pedraza and asked if he had a permit; Pedraza answered no.

The police officer then asked Pedraza why he was painting the box. "I just told him I saw other boxes around that had been painted on and I was frustrated with the way they looked, like there wasn't a lot of effort put into them. So I decided to do my own box for the city, for free," Pedraza says.

The arresting officer told Pedraza to put his paint brush down and placed him in the detain position. More police arrived to document the scene, and Pedraza was taken to the station for questioning.

"It's funny--as the police were taking my fingerprints, they were telling me how much they liked my work and how cool my painting was," Pedraza said. Nine hours later, Pedraza was released from the detention cell, newly charged with defacement of property and possession of materials with intent to vandalize, and with an order to appear in court on August 29th.

The Utility Box Art Project (UBAP) was initiated by Santa Ana City Council last October to promote the arts and connect the community to more public art in the city. "This is an opportunity to beautify the city, invest in the arts, and provide another way for local artists to showcase their work in a unique way," Jay Trevino, Executive Director of Strategic Planning, said back then. Cities like Garden Grove, Los Angeles and Berkeley have already adopted similar programs.

Officials released a call for artists to send proposals for designs on utility boxes by flyer, and the call circulated through social media, email, and word of mouth. The artists chosen each received a grant award of $700 as well as up to $200 reimbursement of materials. Members of the United Artists of Santa Ana, Ryan Chase of Downtown Inc, and John Spiak of Grand Central Art Center were among those who served as members of the jury overseeing the selection process of the artists and ultimately assigning utility boxes in the downtown area to seven artists.

News of the project slipped past Pedraza and other artists, who only learned of UBAP as it was already underway. Pedraza states he was deeply curious about how to go about being a part of the project, and may have encountered some bad advice. "I went up to an artist working on one of the utility boxes and asked how I could paint my own box, and he said to just go for it, as long as I look professional doing it," he said. "Looking back, I guess I was asking the wrong person, or getting bad advice."

Since his arrest, Pedraza has received an outpouring of support from friends and fellow artists. Alicia Rojas, a local artist and one of the members of the jury selection committee for UBAP, has created a Change.org petition to drop all charges against Pedraza. The petition's info says Pedraza was charged with a felony--however that has not been determined yet by the district attorney overseeing Pedraza's case.

In the meantime, life hasn't slowed down for Pedraza as he continues to make art; in between working at Cal State Fullerton's Grand Central Art Center and volunteering at The Grain Project, he's working on more paintings and curating an art show in October. But the generous amount of support he's received has made this ordeal bearable.

"All this support has made me feel inspired. You're not an artist if you're not for the people," Pedraza says, "I'm nothing without the community."

UPDATE: Sept. 23, the DA and Superior Court judge have cleared Pedraza of any vandalism charges, but Pedraza will still be responsible for paying restitution for the costs of painting over the utility box.

Moral of the story? Don't go painting over public art without a permit. Period.

Email: amurillo@ocweekly.com Twitter: @aimee_murillo Follow OC Weekly on Twitter and Facebook!


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49 comments
Jeff Rey
Jeff Rey

well yeah! theyre human hello. theyre community members too hello, but theyve a job to do an important an unappreciated one that most of us are unqualified or unwilling to do.

Keith Burks
Keith Burks

Bummer ! Now stop tagging my billboards and we'll be good!

Kimberly Duran
Kimberly Duran

This is hilarious , next time try common sense and don't paint a box illegally in broad daylight in front of the courthouse

Josh Foote
Josh Foote

I've seen these utility boxes in there awesome he's done a bunch of them down Main Street through the downtown area I see him everyday on the way to work there pretty cool looking

Mike MacDuffee
Mike MacDuffee

Prepare for felony charges, probation, possible jail time, and 2 more strikes til prison for life

Downtown Santa Ana
Downtown Santa Ana

Really? That comment is not needed here! Support the artist by signing or don't sign, just leave that out of the conversation please.

Darin Rich
Darin Rich

Why am I an a-hole, because I'm blunt and to the point? I'm not a racist, and it's not a racist comment. it's simply true and now "journalists" are feeding into the linguistic inaccuracy.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

What an idiot.  "Just go for it"?  Right.  I highly doubt any of the selected artists said that to him.  They should just make him clean the artwork off of the utility box, drop the charges and let it go.  

Susan Garcia
Susan Garcia

Awesome work and them police should have paid you for making the city look pretty with your art work..

Steve Beltran
Steve Beltran

Nice work man.keep showing ur talent n It'll pay off for u.don't get discouraged

Louie Louie
Louie Louie

Well at least he got some recognition by being in the weekly

Darin Rich
Darin Rich

Are we really starting to put SanTana in writing? It's Santa Ana, and only called SanTana because the Hispanics can't pronounce the cities name correctly.

Linda Josey
Linda Josey

I love our painted boxes in Long Beach!

Seamus Mieka Leonard
Seamus Mieka Leonard

next time approach the county office with a public beautification proposal, Im sure they will give u a grant everytime.

Chuck Self
Chuck Self

That's a drag. What sucks is that SA has a program that lets you paint these boxes (and possibly pay you for the paint). All ya have to do is put in for a permit!!! Still sucks for this guy though!!!! Alan Carvalho!!!!! lol!!!!!

WhiteyAlmighty
WhiteyAlmighty

To put it in plain Spanglish: this guy is a pendejo. What was he thinking?

20ftjesus
20ftjesus topcommenter

This must be Thursday, I never could get the hang of Thursdays. 

kevinsbeach935
kevinsbeach935

I'm sure that Pedraza got what he wanted. I would call it notoriety. And then his comment/quote:  "All this support has made me feel inspired. You're not an artist if you're not for the people," Pedraza says, "I'm nothing without the community."  

He says your not an artist if you're not for the people. That is ridiculous. I feel sorry for him, and his "art" will always suffer for believing this.  He's nothing without the community?  More ridiculousness.  Young artists or anyone that is interested in creating fine art should pick up an art history book (along with their brushes) more often. Because you are nothing without what came before you. Great art stands alone and is selfish. It does not care about you or your community. And if you don't believe that you will never be a great artist. But, maybe you don't care about that. You just care about being known. Great Art is not for everybody. Art is hard.  Good luck. 

Fabi Ampudia De Osorio
Fabi Ampudia De Osorio

We have the utility boxes painted in San Clemente. It makes the city look that much cooler.

Patrick Derry
Patrick Derry

Crazy! They encourage the arts but don't encourage art

Mary Morales Willhide
Mary Morales Willhide

Nice work Tony. You just didn't go through the right channels. I hope you get to do more. Even if not in that city.

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

using other peoples property without permission should be punishable 


great artwork 

but it doesnt change that fact

Stephen Zamora
Stephen Zamora

Finally a story from the Weekly that has all the facts. Good luck Tony

Jay Rod
Jay Rod

so much for serve and protect.

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

He could be facing FELONY charges for painting a picture on a utility box?!! Seriously?

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

@sweetliberty17761776 

1) I would argue more poor people are railroaded into pleading "no contest" when they are innocent of a crime because justice for all is apparently too costly and inconvenient...

2) Shambles? I actually feel quite blessed, all things considered. I just believe in standing up for what's right and it's wrong that Mr. Pedraza should be charged with a felony and, if convicted, lose his right to vote for painting on a utility box. Sounds cruel and unusual to me.

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle @sweetliberty17761776



the government has been allowed , against the wishes of the Founding Fathers,


to become above the law,


hence, defacing ( in this case) or hurting a gov employee carries more weight


NOW THAT IS YET ANOTHER example of


leftist elitism ( and yes loved by those so called conservatives too)


thats why the possibility exists for that punishment


if you believe in equality then you would be against the gov thinking themselves as above others




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