Burb's Eye View: Phone-booth project calls out domestic abuse

The four phone booths inside the Burbank Town Center Mall may have looked at home there 20 or 30 years ago. Not Monday.

A man walked past them, stopping his stride to consider for a moment what he’d just seen. Yes, there are four phone booths in the middle of the courtyard outside Burlington Coat Factory. With no hint of irony, he pulled the small white phone out of his pocket and snapped a picture of them.

If artist Doug Murphy wanted to get people’s attention, he’s already done that and the work on his art installation had just begun.

“These are so iconic — and this is a strange time to do this. If we were to do this 10 years from now, it would seem almost antiquated,” he said.

The installation, if it gets completed by its scheduled opening on Thursday, will help the Zonta Club of Burbank raise awareness for resources already available in the city for those who suffer from domestic abuse.

Called “Baring Their Soles,” it’s part of a larger public art project through Zonta International’s global “Zonta Says No” campaign. Since 2013 artists have staged installations in cities around the world using women’s shoes to represent the victims of domestic abuse.

In Murphy’s installation one phone booth will be filled with shoes representing the 337 reported domestic-abuse cases in Burbank last year. He said the remaining booths will remain empty, with the goal that one day they all can be empty.

The installation is sponsored by the Zonta Club and the city’s Domestic Violence Task Force.

“We know there are people suffering who don’t know where to go,” said Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy in a statement. “We hope this exhibit will draw attention to the resources available and let victims know they can get help.”

Around the four phone booths will be cards listing resources such as the Family Service Agency of Burbank, a number for a crisis hotline and information about filing restraining orders.

As of Monday, Murphy, serving as the project’s creative director, also planned to have information and statistics on domestic abuse in Burbank represented in Lichtenstein-style pop art lining the booths.

They hold a double meaning: They are a means for women (and men) to get help, and, as Superman once used them in the movies, the phone booths are a means of transformation.

“We want people to know they can go someplace and you don’t have to feel ashamed or embarrassed,” Murphy said. “You can come away from (a situation) knowing you did this. You helped yourself — you come out a hero.”

Monday night’s mall crowd was sparse. Those walking by the phone booths often read the poster with the numbers to call for help.

Even in its spare state, the installation of old props from the Christopher Reeve-era Superman movies once again turned heads.

“Here’s an opportunity to do something good and create awareness. It’s a no-brainer,” Murphy said.


BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. He can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter: @818NewGuy.

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