Margo Mullen at work in Santa CruzCSUMB graduate Margo Mullen has just completed a public art project in Santa Cruz. Her canvas: a square traffic controller box located at the busy intersection of Soquel Avenue and Morrissey Boulevard.

Mullen, best known on campus as the artist behind the mural at the Aquatic Center, was one of five artists chosen from 150 applicants to participate in phase two of the Outside the Box public art project.

The project was part of an effort by the Santa Cruz County Parks Department to transform traffic control boxes in the region. The boxes house the equipment that operates traffic signals.

Margo's robot friendsHer tiny mural shows two robots, one red and the other yellow, holding hands. Their clasped hands form a heart. She was the only artist chosen for phase two who didn’t have to revise her proposed design. Her experience as a muralist helped, she said.

Mullen told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that the robots were “born” in Santa Cruz. They were created – literally – in a moment of darkness, when the power went out in her studio. She had watercolor paper, ink and a headlamp; with those tools, she created a series of robots.

“They just happened,” she told the Sentinel. Featured on her business cards, they travel with her everywhere. “They’ve become my little friends.”

The project took 26 hours over four days.

According to her blog, countless people said “thank-you,” “awesome” and “way to go” as they passed on foot, bicycle and in cars.

“All I can say is, Thank-You, Santa Cruz.”

CSUMB is home to Mullen’s first big project – a 100-foot by 16-foot depiction of a kelp forest.

“Working as a lifeguard at the Aquatic Center and playing water polo left an impression on me,” she said in 2006. The Visual and Public Art major used it as her capstone project.

She recently worked on a mural at the Museum of Monterey – formerly the Monterey History and Maritime Museum – with Los Angeles artist Andre Miripolsk, and is currently working with painter John Pugh on a mural for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. 

To see more photos of the robots project, click here

To read about her mural at the CSUMB Aquatic Center, click here.

To read about the Visual and Public Art Department, click here.

Photos courtesy of Margo Mullen