Bad week for sculpture in Asheville

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


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One thought on “Bad week for sculpture in Asheville

  1. It wasn’t so long ago that Merrimon Avenue, where I live and work, was a thriving, up-and-coming area.

    And then came that commission about development… and now look what you have….

    1) Dozens of businesses have closed.
    2) Ridiculously stupid development/building has occurred… the little hut on the street out front of Walgreens, buildings like the one Jersey Mike’s is in rammed up against the road, the Staples fiasco…. and the list goes on….
    3) A real concentration of graffiti over the past couple of years.

    It’s the haves vs. the have nots that leads to vandalism of public property in my view. To deface public property is an act of desperation I think, a way of crying out for help.

    I express my sympathy towards the artists, community activists, and business owners who have been taken aback by all of these developments.

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