- Associated Press - Saturday, March 29, 2014

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) - Repeated vandalism of public art has put a damper on prospects for adding more in Ocean Springs.

A bare pedestal on the grounds of the Chamber of Commerce has a terse note where a 60-pound, cast-glass orange sculpture once stood.

The note is from the organization that for years raised money to buy expensive, provocative art to adorn public spaces.

It says the sculpture, “Lover,” one of three in a set that sold for $30,000, was vandalized by “some fool” who decided to destroy public art and that “this is not acceptable in our Ocean Springs.”

The group is known as PAPOS - Public Arts Project Ocean Springs. One of its founders, Herb Moore, told The Sun Herald (https://bit.ly/1jLbQX7) that plans to continue the art program are now on hold.

The glass piece was destroyed in December and a bronze crow - the centerpiece of another public sculpture - was ripped from its granite perch earlier in the year.

PAPOS paid the $1,500 to replace the crow in “The Crow and The Pitcher” that stands in Keys Park off Government Street. But the glass piece is too pricey. It likely would cost more than $10,000 to replace.

“Our little group doesn’t have the finances to replace it and shouldn’t, because it belongs to the city,” Moore said.

The group met its original goal to raise money from businesses to buy five pieces and give them over to the city.

“We were encouraged to do another five pieces,” he said. “Then the vandalism happened and it’s on hold. We just don’t know what to do about it.”

He said until the city comes up with a way to protect the artworks, there’s no reason to continue.

The good news is that the city now has most of its public art insured.

For $1,800 a year, it added the PAPOS pieces and three others to the policy that covers city buildings. But aldermen didn’t vote to do that until after the orange glass sculpture was destroyed.

Moore believes it was struck with a hammer or bat and knocked off its pedestal. He said he found the two large segments and slivers lying near the pedestal. It can’t be repaired.

“It was pure vandalism,” he said. “Just damned meanness.”

Mayor Connie Moran knows the value of the glass art. It came from a Russian artist and was on display in Berlin when the group bought it. But it looks like the nubs that once held it in place will remain empty for a while longer.

Moran said no money is available in the budget for art, and aldermen have even been forced to cut the beautification budget.

Moran said that with outdoor art, “you always run the risk of vandalism. All we can do is put up surveillance and ask people to be mindful and alert police if they see anything.”

In the meantime, Moore said, “I would like to keep the note there, until the city decides what it’s going to do.”


Information from: The Sun Herald, https://www.sunherald.com

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