Birthday artwork inspires weekend food drive for Union Station,

Town Council postpones expulsion vote to December

By André Coleman , Jake Armstrong 11/19/2009

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Fork hunger
Birthday artwork inspires weekend food drive for Union Station

It began as a birthday prank, but now the minds behind the Crown City’s latest piece of guerilla art — an 18-foot-tall utensil jutting from a median at Pasadena and St. John avenues — plan to tell hunger to fork off.

Friends of Bob Stane, co-owner of Altadena’s Coffee Galley Backstage, and a gaggle of volunteers will hold a food drive at the base of the colossal cutlery piece to benefit Union Station Homeless Services from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“I think we’re going to get a lot of food for folks,” said Stane, whose business partner, Ken Marshall, erected the fork Oct. 31 as a surprise for Stane’s 75th birthday.

Overnight, the solid wood monument became a sensation on the Web — yeah, it’s on Facebook — and in the media, with news of the installation reaching all the way to Chicago. Last week Stane and friends began talks with city officials, who maintain the state-owned median on behalf of Caltrans, about making the fork a permanent roadside attraction. After hearing no objections, they soon settled on holding a food drive to help Union Station, which will face an even greater challenge this year feeding the homeless during the holidays.

Food drives and benefit concerts are an almost regular act at Coffee Gallery Backstage, and the first food drive at the foot of the fork, cheekily dubbed “Put the Fork in Hunger,” may grow much larger, Stane said. “We hope this is just the kickoff of a lot of really big-deal charity drives. We now have an icon to center it all around,” he said.

Marshall’s inspiration for the fork was a fleeting thought Stane had as the pair drove past the bifurcated road nine years ago — that the fork in the road deserved a fork in it.

The food drive comes at perhaps no better time. Union Station is seeing a considerable increase in demand for its services, and officials expect to be feeding upwards of 5,000 people at the annual Thanksgiving dinner at Central Park, according to communication specialist Dana Bean.

While the public generally enjoys it, guerilla art poses a unique challenge for the city, said Rochelle Branch, Pasadena’s cultural affairs manager. “It’s fun, it’s fresh — but it’s also illegal,” she said.

However, Branch is trying to obtain a permit that will keep the fork in place for six months. “That way the public can continue to enjoy it and comment on it anyway they would like to,” she said.

A city engineer is evaluating whether the fork is safe, Branch said.

Branch called it serendipitous that the fork sprang up just as the Arts & Culture Commission prepares to sign off on a public art program that will temporarily add art to highly visible city-owned properties, such as traffic medians.  

Time out

Town Council postpones expulsion vote to December

The Altadena Town Council will wait another month before deciding what to do about Herbert Simmons, a member who ran afoul of his colleagues for allegedly involving the council in promoting a private program designed to honor local teachers and students.

In the meantime, Simmons has retained Rene Amy, a longtime Pasadena schools critic who is now an attorney, and is encouraging people to join in a letter-writing campaign to help him keep his seat on the advisory Town Council.

Last week, a committee of the council voted to expel Simmons from the board, all without ever interviewing Simmons or giving proper notice of the exact charges being leveled against him, Simmons and Amy said. The full council had been expected to discuss the Simmons matter and possibly take action at its monthly meeting Tuesday. But the issue was tabled until December, said Town Council Chairman Gino Sund.

“We want to make sure Mr. Simmons gets adequate time to respond to the committee’s report and recommendation,” he said. Simmons received the four-page report Nov. 14.

Amy chided the Town Council, saying he’s hopeful its members will “recognize Mr. Simmons’ right to due process and free speech and act as a governing agency rather than a school-yard clique.”

In letters to several local businesses, Simmons called the teacher-student of the month program “his first program as a member of the Town Council.” Those same letters also contained a tagline explaining that the program was not sponsored by the council or LA County. Simmons claims the error was an honest mistake that he corrected soon after it was pointed out to him. He also said he returned the less than $200 that he had raised. 


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