Time for a booth remake

A red British telephone booth in downtown Laguna Beach is past its heyday.

It's time for a makeover.

Tuesday evening, the City Council voted unanimously in favor of just that, in the form of an Arts Commission-led temporary sculpture exhibition project. By approving the item on the meeting's consent calendar, the council backed the competition guidelines for the installation of rotating artwork on Forest Avenue.

The K6-style telephone kiosk, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1935, once housed a public telephone, but it was unplugged in the face of ubiquitous cell-phone coverage.

"It's just an empty box, which looks unsightly and uncared-for," cultural arts manager Sian Poeschl said. "There are some cobwebs and dirt inside, and it could certainly be infused with vigor."

So long as the booth's door remains closed, the artist, who will earn $2,000, is free to install art on the interior or exterior of the box. While the city will maintain the donated work, it will remain the artist's property and be returned after two years.

The Arts Commission is now poised to put out a call for artists who reside in Orange County. March 18 is the application deadline.

After the materials have been evaluated, finalists will be invited to make presentations, based on which the commission will return to the City Council with a recommendation.

"We have 76 pieces of public art in our collection, and two are changed regularly," Poeschl said. "The telephone box would add to that project because it's at an ideal location to do something short-term, which would spruce up the booth itself and the surrounding area."

Funded by the Business Improvement District, two similar temporary installments include "Watch Your Toes", a steel sculpture by Jon Seeman in Heisler Park, near the Inn at Laguna Beach, and "Tri-po" by Russell Jacques near Broadway's bus depot, contributed by the Festival of the Arts.

"This project is open to people who don't have a huge amount of experience within public art," Poeschl said. "Artists currently working on private commissions, and even students, can use this opportunity as a stepping stone. This is a chance to experiment with different kinds of work and material."

While the telephone booth site requires that the installation be extremely durable and safe to the public, Poeschl added that the artwork will not be judged with the same criteria as if it "were expected to be there 100 years from now."

"This is a unique opportunity to think outside the box," said Arts Commission Chair Pat Kollenda. "How much fun [it is] to create art in such an iconic place that holds special meaning for all Lagunans."



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