Laguna Beach monument to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks took a beating at the hands of vandals for the second time.
During a stroll through Heisler Park this past weekend, its creator, local artist Jorg Dubin, discovered that the shiny sphere at the center of the monument “Semper Memento” (always remember) was sitting askew on its pentagonal base. The sphere is framed by two remnants of steel girders salvaged from the destroyed World Trade Center towers and located near the Veteran’s War Memorial.
Closer inspection revealed that the sphere had been rocked or pounded hard enough to break the welds connecting the reflecting sphere it to its base, causing it to lean into one of the beams.
“It is just barely hanging on. It must have taken brute force to do this much damage, so it’s clearly an act of vandalism,” said Dubin.
Installed in 2011 on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the sphere had been scratched and dented by vandals that same year, he recalled. “I can’t speculate on motives. The fact that it has been vandalized, is hard enough to take,” he said. “It’s simply beyond me, seeing what the piece means to the city and the country’s history.”
The incidents raise questions over the city’s supervision and maintenance of
its growing 65-piece public art collection as well as the durability of works the city commissions.
Last year, the city’s Arts Commission oversaw a $172,000 budget, collected from Business Improvements District funds, for programs rangingfrom a bench competition to outdoor concerts. Of that, $10,000 is budgeted for annually for repairs, according to the city budget. The amount does not include repair of holiday palettes or cleaning of summer banners, temporary works installed seasonally, said the city’s cultural arts mnanager Sian Poeschl.
Security and maintenance of the city’s public arts works will likely become part of the discussion by the full commission when Dubin makes his estimate for repairs, said Arts Commission chair Lisa Mansour, who noted that repair of public art works is paid for from a special art in lieu fund separate from the $10,000 maintenance budget.
Dubin is unsure whether the monument is repairable or whether a new version will have to be built. The sphere has been removed in consideration of public safety, Poeschl said.
Under the terms of the commission for the memorial, the city contract holds artists responsible for a work’s workmanship and materials for at least 10 years from the date that it is accepted. But, the contract also acknowledges and agrees that the artist is not responsible for normal wear and tear, vandalism or so-called acts of nature.
The city’s Arts Commission selected Dubin as the finalist for the work on June 27, 2011, giving him a three-month deadline to finish the monument in time for the anniversary. Local resident and arts patron Mark Porterfield underwrote the $19,000 budget for the project, along with the shipping costs for the six-foot lengths of 612-pound girders.
Dubin reported the incident to police. “We checked for recent graffiti and large group activity in the area, but could not find any in the evenings preceding the discovery,” said Captain Jason Kravetz, urging anyone with information to contact Detective Abe Ocampo at 949 497-0370.
While vandals may lack a political motive for wrecking the work, the city’s art collection overall has not been immune to similar destructive acts in recent years.
“Tri-Po,” a mirror and stainless steel work by Russel Jacques, near the Broadway bus depot, was scratched; Julia Klemek’s “Green Man with Birds,” in a South Laguna park, was damaged, possibly accidentally; a light on George Stone’s “Rockpile Carve,” a Heisler Park bench, was vandalized; canyon and bus depot benches by Jeff Peters, David Cooke and Dubin require annual refurbishment due to damage; and two panels of the mural “the Postcards from Laguna” located at the Broadway bus depot were removed due to vandalism, Poeschl said.
Poeschl says she inspects outdoor public art works two or three times a year, but gives works in Heisler Park and downtown the once over more regularly, during weekly walks through the area. Arts Commissioners also review works during visits to city parks, and public works staff is responsible to report changes to Poeschl.
Dubin was asked to provide a cost estimate and timeframe for repair of “Semper Memento.” As for possible design improvements, he said, “There is only so much one can do to deter vandals.”