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Laguna Beach artwork turns downtown phone booth into superhero dressing room

Wonder Woman, a superdog and other heroes descended on Laguna Beach on Tuesday to visit their downtown dressing room — the recently installed public artwork “Superhero Changing Station.”

They joined local artist Robert Holton, along with several Laguna Beach residents and visitors, for a dedication of his piece, which features superhero costumes and paraphernalia in the city’s iconic red telephone booth on Forest Avenue.

Holton said that every time he passes by the booth, he’s reminded of the superheroes of his childhood.

“Clark Kent would jump in there and change and fly out of the roof” as Superman, said Holton, sporting a black blazer with colorful lapels he painted himself. “Every time I saw it, that’s kind of what I thought of.”

He said he hopes the artwork will encourage people to “step up once in awhile.”

“Especially in this time, there is a lot of negativity in things that are going on. I think we need to be kinder,” Holton said. “Be a hero in any way you can.”

Heidi Miller, owner of the downtown women’s clothing store Tight Assets, dressed for the occasion in a Wonder Woman costume complete with red boots and armbands.

She already owned the costume for a part she played in “CHOC Follies,” a recent fundraiser for Children’s Hospital of Orange County, and said she was happy to break it out again to support Holton’s exhibition.

“[It’s] absolutely wonderful,” she said. “We all forget we have superpowers.”

“You look super, Heidi,” a passer-by commented.

Alma Shodja, 12, dressed as a female version of Zorro, and her brother Aidan, 10, wore a “Super Banana” outfit fashioned from a banana costume and black cape.

“It’s a superhero theme and I think a lot of people just think Superman and Batman and Flash, like the main ones, but there’s other, hidden ones,” Alma said.

Their mother, Jasmine Shodja, said a phone booth is a perfect spot for a superhero dressing room.

“A lot of us, when we get into a confined environment, that’s when the power comes out,” she said. “That’s how I look at it.”

The Laguna Beach Arts Commission chose Holton from among 25 artists to display his work in the phone booth for the next two years as part of the commission’s temporary sculpture program.

Terry Voss, 58, who was visiting from Watford, England, said he and his companions were heading toward the beach when the giant gloved fist punching through the top of the art display “just drew us in.” They took a detour to see the red phone box, which the British tourist was tickled to find in Laguna Beach.

“We thought, ‘Wow, what’s that doing here?’” Voss said. “I’m very inspired by the whole thing. … I’m going to go get me a Batman suit!”

Quotes on the back of the booth encourage passers-by to embrace their inner superhero. “You don’t need superpowers to be a superhero,” reads one. Another, from Batman, says: “You only have your thoughts and dreams ahead of you. You are someone. You mean something.”

“It’s a perfect place for something funky,” said Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda. “We need our superheroes.”

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