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Pasadena’s newest public art sculpture vandalized

by Pasadena Star-News

PASADENA – Vandals have seriously damaged “Timeless Joy,” one of four sculptures just installed for the first citywide Rotating Public Art Exhibition.

“Timeless Joy” – a hummingbird made of Harley Davidson and bicycle parts by artist LT Mustardseed – was damaged the day after it was set up on the southwest corner of Washington Boulevard and Marengo Avenue in late August, Rochelle Branch, the city’s cultural affairs manager, said Tuesday.

First the long beak was broken off and now the wings have been wrenched off the body, leaving a hole in the sculpted bird’s back.

Police Lt. Rick Aversano said Tuesday that he expected a report to be filed and that the vandalism was under investigation.

“I’m sure there are going to be some really disappointed residents throughout the Northwest,” said Ishmael Trone, a longtime neighborhood activist. “Unfortunately the community is going to have to police public art … and hopefully, it doesn’t discourage the city from putting public art here.”

“Timeless Joy” and three other sculptures – “Convergence” at the traffic island at Washington Boulevard and Glen Avenue, “Diversity” at Sierra Madre Boulevard and New York Drive, and “Handstand” at Sunset Avenue and Mountain Street – were purposely put in areas of the city that have traditionally been short-changed in public art.

The city was to pay Mustardseed a $3,000 honorarium for the 18-month exhibit, Branch said.

The 18-month process of selecting the art involved extensive community input, said Patrick Conyers, chairman of the Arts and Culture Commission.

“It saddens me, we were obviously so excited to get the project up,” Conyers said. “But we knew any time putting public art up that (vandalism) is a possibility.”

Conyers said the commission had discussed questions of upkeep and taking care of the artworks – which he said are insured – and said getting the community involved is key.

“It’s a way of community-building and, as an ulterior motive, it can help `inoculate the artwork against vandalism or graffiti,”‘ Conyers said. “With this public art project there was a pretty rigorous process with the city and representatives nominated by the City Council who helped choose the artwork and the sites. I don’t know how much more we could have done to possibly get more community involvement.”

Councilman Chris Holden, whose district includes parts of Northwest Pasadena, called the vandalism “disgraceful.”

“Unfortunately, we’re trying to put something into the community to beautify it and show solidarity with the spirit of art and culture that Pasadena embraces,” Holden said. “Sometimes it just takes one person to mess it up for everyone.”

Seraphina Whitman, the assistant to Los Angeles-based LT Mustardseed, said the artist was “shocked” by the damage.

“To do that required a lot of physical force, and they scratched and chipped the paint pretty drastically,” Whitman said. “It’s been on public display for two years at another location, exposed to people, and it’s built pretty tough.”

The sculpture is valued at about $12,000, Whitman said, and repairs to what is basically a “found object” piece with an auto-style paint finish will be a “big project” that can’t be done on-site.

Returning the hummingbird to the same site “doesn’t seem smart,” Whitman said, “unless it’s on a very tall platform out of reach.”

Vandalism of public art is “not unknown,” Branch said.

“And we know this is not reflective of that community,” she said. “All it takes is one person and one thoughtless act.”

Picture information: Julie Vinock, 58, of Pasadena points to the area where two hummingbird wings were anchored to a metal sculpture. Vinock is upset that someone would vandalize the work, which was installed recently in Northwest Pasadena. (Walt Mancini Staff Photographer)

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