John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Circus worker Adam Tenenbaum's front yard has become a neighborhood gathering place due to one really weird art tree.
This is what happens when you combine a man from the traveling circus, his acrobat roommate and a big pile of chandeliers: a brilliantly beaming carnival tree in the heart of L.A.'s artsy Silver Lake neighborhood.
Adam Tenenbaum, a 38-year-old circus makeup artist, has with the help of friends festooned his front-yard tree with more than 30 hanging lamps, some from garage sales and others he made by hand. He started the quizzical project six years ago after acquiring a couple unwanted chandeliers from a set-building gig. Because his neighbors appear to be cool, non-NIMBYish sorts, he continues adding on lights, using his skills as a general contractor to prevent the whole thing going up in an intense electrical blaze during rainstorms.
"I basically consider my front yard to be like public domain," says Tenenbaum over the phone. And indeed it's become a popular community gathering spot in L.A., with Friday nights seeing children bouncing on a trampoline and adults exchanging gossip. "It's like your local bar, without the alcohol."
The world might not know of this enchanting art tree had not local filmmaker Colin Kennedy recently made the poetic tribute you see above. Since the video hit the Internet this week, the pedestrian traffic under the tree has become "big time – pretty damn busy," Tenenbaum says. But that's fine with him. "It's quite a unique thing to have something that doesn't have any labels or corporate support," he says. "It's really lived off the neighborhood's support.... It's just a magical playground, a fun place to hang out."
Check it out the next time you're at 2811 W. Silver Lake Drive. And if you want to help maintain it, drop a quarter into the parking meter that Tenenbaum has dollied up in a big-top fashion. "It's like lighting 30-plus rooms at a time," he says, adding that his electric bills are "off the chart."
(H/t to The Eastsider L.A.)