Vacuum Cleaner Sculptor Asked to Clean Up His Act : Studio City Decoration Plan OKd

Times Staff Writer

The head of a Studio City beautification campaign Monday urged a phantom artist to clean his vacuum cleaner sculpture off the community's most prominent greenbelt.

The admonition came as community leaders announced they have won the City of Los Angeles' approval of their greenbelt decoration plan and have raised enough money to start the project.

But instead of the fanciful vacuum cleaner artwork placed by a mystery artist in a grassy triangular median at a three-way intersection, the permanent greenbelt will feature a gold-lettered "Studio City" sign.

Leaders of the Studio City Beautification Assn. revealed their plans as they stood on the small Ventura Boulevard traffic island in the shadow of the latest vacuum cleaner sculpture--a 10-foot-tall plaster man who has a book in one hand and the sweeper in the other.

"This is a disgrace," Irwin Stanton, founder of the 3-year-old association, said of the sculpture. "It's an eyesore. We certainly don't want people to think we put it up. It's not my idea of an improvement."

2nd Phantom Sculpture

The artist put a five-foot collage of old tires, stereo speakers and a cascade of dinner forks built around a similar vacuum cleaner at the same spot in August.

Stanton received checks from the Studio City Chamber of Commerce and the Studio City Residents Assn. on Monday to bring to $27,000 the amount raised for the greenbelt project. That is enough to persuade the city to seek bids for the $42,000 project in a month or so, said Stanton, 79, a former television technical director.

Studio City activists had hoped to save money by doing the construction themselves, said Bryan Spangle, a landscape architect who designed the greenbelt plan. But the city balked at that plan, fearing lawsuits if there was a traffic accident at the site.

In the past, city officials have refused to allow private groups to landscape or beautify publicly owned land because of cost and liability.

The Studio City project seemed similarly stalled, Spangle said, until a compromise late last year involving the community and city lawyers and traffic engineers. The agreement calls for work to begin using the community plans and money--but with city-administered construction and maintenance, he said.

Might Be Sole Agreement

"It's the first such agreement in the city that we know of," said Mark Siegel, an aide to City Councilman Joel Wachs, who helped negotiate the compromise.

"This could be a model and an incentive for other beautification projects in the city on median strips, rights of way and under water and power lines. It could give people a greater sense of pride," Siegel said.

The beautification group said it will continue raising money until it has enough to endow a permanent landscape maintenance fund for the triangle. Meanwhile, the association is prepared to scale back its plans if donations dry up.

That could mean fewer trees, less lighting or perhaps changes to the sign. "Maybe we could make it 'Stud City,' " Spangle joked.

Or the group might swallow its pride and ask the phantom artist to help out. "I like his art. I'd like to see more of it. These things are fabulous," Spangle whispered out of Stanton's earshot.

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