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Art Project Transforms L.A. Rail Yard

September 13, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A $3 million art project has transformed an abandoned downtown rail yard into a sea of hundreds of thousands of corn stalks that dance in the breeze.

The Not a Cornfield project by artist Lauren Bon, which is expected to include 2 million ears of corn, is not meant to be eaten. Rather, it’s intended to celebrate the city’s multiethnic history _ corn was grown around the site since the pueblo days _ and to serve as a beacon for downtown’s slow revitalization.

Some among the trickle of visitors who visit the installation in Los Angeles State Historic Park north of downtown don’t quite see the artistic significance of produce sprouting from the ground amid warehouses and railroad tracks.

``I don’t know what to say about it,″ said Nobe Kawano, 82, who lives near Dodger Stadium. ``It looks nice, though.″

His daughter, Ellen Biasin, 57, had a different take on the project, which was launched quietly in late July. ``It’s very low-key, kind of conceptual, so it’s kind of hard for people to understand,″ she said.

The project was endorsed by local business, art and community leaders, and funded by the Annenberg Foundation, of which Bon is a trustee.

Critics say the project doesn’t address the area’s history of discrimination against Mexican and Chinese immigrants, and delays a long-awaited public park at the site.

Backers say a lack of state money is holding up the park. They also say that the Annenberg Foundation will leave behind irrigation systems, lighting, pathways and better soil when the corn is harvested in late October.

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