Plant scrape

Artist Alacia Stubbs received a call Sunday, June 22, informing her that her public art sculpture, part of the City's widely touted Art-In-Place program, had been vandalized.

"I was shocked," Stubbs says. "Some people are trying to make Charlottesville a more culturally attractive place, but there are some mean people who engage in vandalism for no reason."

The sculpture, dubbed "Little Plant Dancing," was Stubbs' first Art-In-Place piece since she moved here last year and received the commission. The vibrantly colored sculpture of high-fire clay stood four feet tall in the City's newest park, the Schenks Branch Greenway.

According to Stubbs, the bottom of the sculpture was held in place by a cement platform with a steel pipe running through it. This part remained intact after Sunday's incident, but the upper portions had been toppled over.

"There are people who don't like art who act on it by vandalizing it," says Stubbs. "If they don't like it, they should just ignore it."

But was this really a hate crime against art? Or was someone simply loving art a bit too intensively? Blake Hurt thinks it's the latter.

A founder of Art-In-Place, Hurt says he received a note from co-founder Elizabeth Breeden stating that the damage didn't look like it was caused by someone with a baseball bat. Breeden ventured that it might have been caused by someone hugging the sculpture. Hugging?

"Maybe it was just an accidental act of enthusiasm for art," says Hurt, noting that Art-In-Place has no hands-off policy. "We want people to like it," he says, "so in general we have no objection to people touching the art."

Hurt says that of the nine or 10 pieces of art the non-profit puts in place every year, he has seen only a few damaged: one was when someone broke the briefcase off Rob Tarbell's "A Bad Case of the Mondays."

"In the past we have had people who hooked vehicles up to chains to damage the art," Hurt notes, but he says nothing like that appeared to be the case with "Little Plant Dancing."

The damage was noted by two separate sources after 2pm Sunday afternoon. Apparently no one saw anything unusual before then, which may imply that weekend night hooligans weren't to blame.

Stubbs says she's currently repairing the sculpture. "It's a plant with a blossom," she says, "and many of the petals were broken to smithereens. It will always be damaged, but as seen from the road, it'll look okay."

Tree-huggers: next time, please stick to real trees.

1 comment

The vandalism in former years "felt" like someone, under the influence, had a vendetta against art. It was sledgehammer mayhem, angry and mean. This vandalism looks like a shove, a lean, a push and a big, "onmygosh!", an act of stupidity. This might not change the heartbreak of the artist. It changes my attitudes about community.