SOUTH SALT LAKE — Kelie Babcock wanted her latest piece of artwork to convey courage.

In her painting, there are birds sitting on a tree branch. At the end of the branch, a couple of the birds have taken the next step and left the branch to take flight.

"And I think that's sometimes true for us as people. Sometimes we need to find that courage and take that leap and leap fearlessly. From my experience, every time I've decided to be brave and go after what I want, it's always been good results," Babcock said.

For Babcock, her leap of courage included not letting a lifelong disability get in the way of her love of painting.

Now, some of her artwork will be on public display. But rather than a museum, her artwork will be featured on utility boxes in South Salt Lake.

"I loved the idea of taking something functional, like a utility box, and putting art on it. I like being able to put art in unexpected places," she said.

Babcock, of Ogden, has Escobar syndrome. She uses a ventilator because of shortness of breath. And even though she can drive a car specially designed for her, she uses a wheelchair because she tires easily and must transport breathing equipment with her wherever she goes.

Babcock was named Ms. Utah Wheelchair in 2010. She has a degree in social work from Weber State University and a minor in art.

And even though the canvasses she uses are sometimes bigger than she is, Babcock's disability has not limited her painting.

"I'm lucky. I mean, my joints are contracted and my hands are shaped a little bit differently. But I'm lucky because I have good dexterity. I'm able to paint this fine," she said.

Babcock describes her work as "abstract with elements of nature in it. I love bold, bright color. I love just kind of simple design, but I try to say a lot with color. So a lot of my work has trees or plants or birds, anything that grows."

But she said her paintings are also meant to convey real human emotion.

The South Salt Lake Utility Box Art Program was started in 2011 as a way to fight graffiti. A dozen utility boxes have now been wrapped with artwork.

Babcock's painting, which was put on the utility boxes at the corner of 3300 South and 300 West, is the latest to be added to the city's collection.


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