There’s a Fork in the Road in Pasadena

Pasadena’s Fork in the road is guerilla art installation
by Janette Williams
Pasadena Star News
November 3, 2009

forkintheroad-200Pasadena – Right where Pasadena and St. John avenues divide, there’s a fork in the road.

It’s about 18 feet tall and looks like stainless steel.

The fork’s appearance a few days ago, tines firmly stuck into a little Caltrans-owned median, was a bit of a mystery at first.

“It’s a guerilla installation,” guessed Rochelle Branch, the city’s cultural affairs manager, who oversees the public art program. “I don’t know if it’s through Caltrans, but it is clever.”

Caltrans spokeswoman Maria Raptis, who said Caltrans leases the small plot of land to the city, was equally baffled.

“Sometimes we do put art up. We have context-sensitive art off some freeways,” she said. “But I don’t know about this.”

And David Amronin, co-artistic director of Pasadena’s always edgy NewTown arts group – they describe themselves as “A Persistent Weed in The Garden of Art” – said it wasn’t his group.

“I wish it was,” Amronin said. “Like a dinner fork with tines down? Very cool. I mean, it’s right up our alley and I wish we could take credit for it.”

It turns out the fork is an elaborate – and expensive – birthday prank in honor of the 75th birthday of Bob Stane, founder of the Ice House comedy club, who now owns the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena.

“Oh, so you know it’s me?” said Stane, who was visiting his 95-year-old mother in Palm Springs Tuesday. “We really want to give this thing to the city as public art, and it looks promising at this point.”

Stane said he first mentioned the fork in the road idea 10 years ago to his friend and partner Ken Marshall.

But it wasn’t until his week-long birthday celebration, starting Oct. 29, that his friends pulled the surprise, he said.

The wooden fork, is “expertly carved and painted,” to look like metal, Stane said.

“It’s anchored in 2 1/2-feet of concrete and steel. It’s not a public danger – unless someone drives into it.”

Stane confirmed that his friends, in full Caltrans uniform complete with helmets and lights, dug the hole “in dead of night.”

Branch said she loved the idea of the fork installation.

So did Sue Mossman who, as executive director of Pasadena Heritage, has been known to fault the city’s public art choices.

“It’s quite well done, and quite bizarre,” said Mossman, who noticed the giant fork as she headed up St John to work. “It’s actually cool.”

It remains to be seen if the city will get the joke.

“I like it. I’m a fan of guerilla art,” Branch confessed. “It reminds us that art is something people make for other people to see, something we had no expectation of finding. And it was free!”

Stane said the fork in the road may end up in the Guinness Book of World Records.

“I hope it will be in many movies – the `Pasadena Fork in the Road,”‘ he said. “Even if we’re going to be arrested, I think we’ve added something to Pasadena.”