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Vines Forming CSULB Initials Destroyed by Vandals : Sculpture: A campus groundskeeper spent two years nurturing and shaping the plants. The severed stems were discovered too late to save them.

February 18, 1993|JOHN POPE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LONG BEACH — The artist broke down and cried when she discovered that her two-year project had started to wither, done in by vandals.

For two years Sarah Reisenauer had nurtured and trimmed five vines into one of the most familiar symbols on the Cal State Long Beach campus. The carefully sculpted Lavender Starflower vines formed the initials "CSULB" along a university wall facing 7th Street, near the West Campus Road entrance.

Recently she checked on her creation because she thought it seemed to be wilting. She was stunned to find that most of the stems behind the letters had been severed.

"I was devastated," said Reisenauer, a campus groundskeeper "It was my baby."

Jeff Riggs, manager of grounds and landscape services, estimated that the stems had been cut one or two days before Reisenauer discovered the damage Feb. 2. By then, it was too late to graft the stems to the foliage.

Riggs said the destruction seemed "carefully premeditated" because the vandals probably used heavy pruning shears to sever the stems. "Someone knew what they were doing," he said.

Since her sculpture was destroyed, Reisenauer said, she has received about a dozen letters of sympathy from faculty, fellow staff members and administrators. She said she has decided to try to grow another plant sculpture from some of the vines and root structures that remain.

Riggs said vandals struck the plant sculpture about a year ago, ripping two of the letters away from the wall. The sculpture survived that attack, however.

University Police Lt. Ron Perron said that with so little evidence, cases of vandalism such as this usually go unsolved.

Reisenauer has worked at Cal State Long Beach five years while taking classes at Long Beach City College toward an associate degree in horticulture. She said she came up with the idea for the "CSULB" plant sculpture as she was trimming hedges.

She found that the hedge along the campus wall on 7th Street was actually made of five separate plants, and asked her supervisor if she could try to sculpt the plants into letters. It took two years before the vines grew almost full and Reisenauer was able to see her vision become reality.

The vines had to be trimmed carefully and trained to grow in the correct direction. Even after the plants were fully developed into letters, the sculpture required hours of upkeep, she said.

Graduate student Richard Green said he enjoyed watching the sculpture grow. "I'm sorry that it happened," he said of the vandalism. "It was a sign that let everybody know what they were driving by."

Jenn Farrelly, a sophomore English major, described the sculpture as "something unique to take pride in. As a student, the school is a part of who I am, and (the vandalism) was like a cut to me."

Farrelly said she is frustrated by such a "juvenile" act of vandalism. "It wasn't like someone was protesting class cuts or anything like that," she said.

Reisenauer said she was especially looking forward to graduation ceremonies at the end of May, when the vines would have been covered with vibrant, lavender flowers.

"Last year I saw students and their families taking pictures in front of the letters," she said. "It made all the work worthwhile."

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