On the evening of Tuesday, November 21, 2017, I received an email from a person that I don’t know asking me what had happened to Vermonica. Within a short time, through inquiries and observations from people in Los Angeles, it was confirmed that the piece had been removed and relocated to the lawn of the Bureau of Street Lighting field office, a couple of blocks away.
Here are the facts: the piece was intended to be up for one year and instead became a beloved icon in East Hollywood for 24 years. It was on private property. The property owner is redesigning the parking lot and asked the Bureau of Street Lighting to remove it by January 2018. Some years ago there was talk about the City of L.A. acquiring the piece so it would be protected. That did not happen due to the complexity of the situation.
I was not contacted. I do not own the poles. I wish they had involved me to redesign the piece for the new location, but they did not.
While the Bureau of Street Lighting put the piece on their property with the historic street lights in the order I designed, this is not my piece and it is no longer Vermonica.
I am proud that it lived for so many years and became woven into the vernacular of the City. I hope a new piece will emerge to keep this idea alive. In the coming months, it is my hope that a dialogue can begin and partnerships identified to bring the power of Vermonica back onto Los Angeles city streets in whatever form that may take. I am thinking deeply about what I think the next steps should be and I invite you to join this conversation.
Among the many complex issues involved is the idea that even if there is no legal standing, there is an ethical need to contact the artist. But the Bureau of Street Lighting is not in the business of making art and I doubt they think of this in the same way I do. The head of the Bureau’s Field Operations now is Jeff Ziliotto, who volunteered to work on the piece in 1992. His father was also a street lighter.
Here’s what I wrote in 1992 when I was trying to make this piece: “I am an artist who wishes to uncover romantic truths about the city. To get the average person to pay attention to their surroundings and the built environment, and to point out the sculptural significance of streetlights and complexity of the task of the city. The piece references the intimate household scale of candlesticks into an urban scaled candelabra for the household of the city”.
And from the Bureau of Street Lighting Notice #599: “The sculpture consists of 25 examples of the more than 250 styles of street light poles and fixtures which have been maintained in the City’s street lighting system. Some of these poles have not seen active service in the City system for 30 to 40 years. Many are fine examples of the artistry and craftsmanship that typified ornamental street lighting designs of the early part of the century. This is the first time that such a display has been assembled in Los Angeles.”
Vermonica operated within and outside of the realm of art. It had distinct lives in the art world, the arena of public works, historical preservation and the neighborhood where it was located.
-Sheila Klein, November 24, 2017 (sheilaklein.com)
Unlike other items of historical value, they made an attempt to preserve your design. So much has been lost in SoCal do to indiscriminate destruction.
This is really sad. But thank you for teaching me about its history. I had no idea!
Where can one acquire the vermonica booklet you have pictured?
Sheila, I remember when you were doing this installation. I love it and am sorry for the callous regard you were shown. It does look like Street Lighting made an attempt to keep the fixtures together. I hope it will have another life someplace in LA. Won’t be Vermonica but it will always be yours. Mary Hamilton
I go to the Staples that is in that shopping center all the time — the last time I was there was on Monday the 20th and I was telling someone that the streetlights in the parking lot are an art piece. I always got a kick out of looking at them and I thank you for designing them and bringing some beauty to an otherwise ordinary urban corner. I am glad the lights were not destroyed and will look for them on the LADWP lot.
Had the poles been removed during the year of your contract, I’m sure you would’ve been contacted; however the fact remains, they are the property of the Bureau of Street Lighting, and their’s is (or should be), the decision where their poles end up.
Although I saw the poles in the grass island, over the years, I was never aware there was a plan to the placement.
It may be time to look for another entity to provide props and space, for your next installation.
Personally, I like seeing the array of different poles, in front of BSL.
as a resident of los angeles since 1950, I was always intrigued by the light poles installed near Staples (which is not longer part of the Santa Monica mall) and rather curious when they were transplanted. now I know the backstory and wish the artist will get proper recognition after all the dust settles on relocation!!!!!