Charlie Snider set the red “Arcturus” sculpture in front of his Merrimon Square shopping center as a boost for the community, with hopes that other Merrimon Avenue businesses would add public art. Customers — especially kids — at the center’s businesses, which include Urban Burrito, Zen Sushi and The Hop, have said they’ve enjoyed it, Snider said.
But sometime last week, vandals scrawled vulgar words across “Arcturus.” While the sculpture is insured and its artist, UNCA student Sam Owen, will either clean it or repaint it, Snider said he’s disappointed.
“Anecdotally, public art seems to be spared from vandalism,” Snider said. “So this is especially disappointing.”
Public art suffered another blow recently when a sculpture was stolen from the RiverSculpture festival’s Reynolds Mountain location in Woodfin. That exhibit closed today.
“Ball and Chain,” a cast-iron sculpture created by Asheville artist Hayden Wilson, was unbolted from its location sometime in late December or early January.
Arlene Winkler, co-organizer of RiverSculpture, said the thieves won’t get much cash if they try to sell the sculpture for scrap, because the iron itself is not worth much. “Ball and Chain” is also insured, but again, it’s a disappointing loss, she said. RiverSculpture moved this year from French Broad River Park in West Asheville to Reynolds Mountain in Woodfin. In both locations, all sculptures were bolted, she said. The thieves would’ve had to use tools to take “Ball and Chain.”
Arlene and Robert Winkler lease the sculpture to Snider as part of a commercial public-art program developed as a RiverSculpture offshoot. The “Arcturus” incident is especially frustrating in light of recent Merrimon Avenue vandalism, said Winkler. The Asheville Police Department in December announced the results of a year-long crackdown on graffiti, including multiple arrests.
“It’s cretinism,” Winkler said. “I hope people say, ‘Isn’t this an outrage?’ We’re an art-friendly town, and for someone to attack a piece of art is particularly offensive.”
— Rebecca Sulock, arts and entertainment editor