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REGION : Coining a Phrase With Talking Parking Meters

Know those car alarm systems that talk? “Step away from the car,” a stern voice orders anyone who comes too close.

Now get ready for talking parking meters.

Only this is art, not a law enforcement device. The project consists of 17 parking meters that have been wired for sound, with plans for 13 more.

When passersby drop in their change, the meters pipe up with spoken sentiments written by people with AIDS or by their friends and family members.

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“I decided the metaphor of time and voices speaking and time running out was important,” said Karen Atkinson, a Santa Monica artist and writer who came up with the idea after the 1992 riots.

The proceeds will help artists with AIDS produce their work, she said.

The project is funded in part by the city of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, with help from the city of West Hollywood and Duncan Industries, a manufacturer of parking meters.

Meters will be placed in museums, bookstores and other sites in Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Santa Monica. None will be installed on sidewalks.

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