A dent about the circumference of a baseball mars the shiny sphere forcefully separated from the welded base of a Sept. 11 memorial in Laguna Beach. It is the third act of vandalism to befall the work, installed in Heisler Park on Sept. 11, 2012, 10 years after terrorists launched an attack with planes on U.S. soil.
Sculptor and artist Jorg Dubin, who discovered the most recent damage during a walk on Sunday, March 6, now suspects the work is being targeted and is calling on city officials to install surveillance cameras in order to protect the work and discourage future attacks.
Commissioned by the Laguna Beach Arts Commission and the City Council, Dubin titled the work “Semper Memento” (Always Remember). Similar dents and scratches to the sphere occurred shortly after its installation and again during a second vandalism in 2015. Then the sculpture’s central silvery sphere was rocked and pounded hard enough to knock it off its moorings, leaning it askew against the two girders framing it. Dubin re-welded the sculpture to approximate, as he put it, the strength of a battleship.
The girders, a remnant scavenged from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers in New York, arrived in Laguna Beach at the initiative of fire fighter Andrew Hill and arts philanthropist Mark Porterfield, who defrayed the monument’s overall $25,000 installation cost.
While Dubin attributed the previous two acts of destruction to “kids on a lark,” he is beginning to consider more sinister motivations. “This is the third time the piece was vandalized in such a brutal way; it must have to do with what it represents,” he said.
“The city has other pieces of public art and they get occasionally scratched or graffitied. This time it appears targeted; an act of nature it is not.”
Dubin contacted the city’s top administrators and elected officials with his concerns.
“Like many in the community, I was upset by the news that this important and symbolic sculpture has been vandalized again,” said City Council member Bob Whalen. “We value all of our public art pieces, but this one has special meaning given the September 11 attacks,” he wrote via email.
Both Whalen and City Manager John Pietig suggested installing cameras at the Heisler Park site, said police spokesman Sgt. Tim Kleiser.
Over all, the city’s public art collection of roughly 80 works has not been immune to destructive acts in recent years. Others near the Broadway Street bus depot and several benches have also required repairs due to vandalism.
Protecting the city’s collection should concern the public, Dubin said. “The piece is a reflection of the community and I hope that Laguna Beach citizens step up and get angry. It’s frustrating that we can’t protect everything from someone who has the desire to destroy.”
Dubin expressed hope that he can again repair the work, but is unsure whether it’s possible or feasible.