No Longer Vermonica

Sheila Klein’s Vermonica, which stands in a mini-mall parking lot near the corner of Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard.

For over 20 years, artist Sheila Klein’s streetlight sculpture Vermonica sat in an unassuming shopping plaza on the northeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vermont Avenue. The work, which predated Chris Burden’s Urban Light at LACMA, was a quirky local landmark. However on November 17th, the sculpture was unceremoniously removed by the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting (BSL), much to the shock of fans and Klein.

According to BSL Assistant Director Megan Hackney, the lights had to be removed because the strip mall’s owners planned to renovate the parking lot and the lampposts were not a part of the future plans.

“We were told we had to take the lights out and were planning it, but then we got an email saying ‘you need to move two of the lights by Friday,” said Hackney.

The lampposts now reside outside the BSL office at 4550 Santa Monica Blvd.

“We figured the best place to put them as a temporary was to move them to our field office; that way we’d have them on our timeline,” Hackney explained. While the lampposts sit in front of the BSL office, they will undergo restoration.

Klein was not informed of the removal and reacted with understandable shock. In a statement on the website of Esotouric, a Los Angeles tour company that specializes in sharing hidden local history, Klein said she only found out about the removal when she received an email from a fan asking “What happened to Vermonica?”

In her statement, Klein made it clear she no longer considered the lampposts to be Vermonica, as they had been removed and rearranged without her approval; ‘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,” said Klein in her statement.

Vermonica was originally intended to be a temporary work that only stood for one year and had always existed in a legal no-man’s zone: Klein was the artist, but the work sat on private property and the lights were still owned by the City of Los Angeles.

However, in an interview with the Ledger, Klein said that she had met with the city and they were working together on a solution for the future of the lampposts. “I think there’s going to be a new life for Vermonica, it hasn’t been confirmed, it’s very much in the works, but there’s a lot of good will from the city and I think they realize there were mistakes made in their process,” said Klein.

Klein said she hopes Vermonica will find a new permanent home in 2018.

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