Photo: Domenica Bongiovanni/Journal & Courier

Photo: Domenica Bongiovanni/Journal & Courier

Artists plan for repairs after bear is damaged

Journal & Courier, May 12, 2015

By Deomenica Bongiovanni
dbongiovan@jconline.com

Artists plan to repair The Bear Mechanics, which was damaged earlier this week. The sculpture is stationed by the Sonya J. Margerum Fountain in Tapawingo Park.

The repair process soon will begin for The Bear Mechanics, the metallic-themed critter by the Sonya J. Margerum Fountain in West Lafayette's Tapawingo Park.

While showing her creation to a friend Wednesday evening, artist Sara Furbush — who created the bear with Morgan Asay, an art teacher at Happy Hollow Elementary School — said she found two of the large gears on the animal's hips were missing. Other parts on the bear were loose.

"I was upset. I cried. … I was expecting it to happen, but I guess I didn't realize how upset I would get," Furbush said.

It was her first piece of public art, she said, and she felt discouraged that it was vandalized.

Pennie Ainsworth, the assistant superintendent of parks and recreation in West Lafayette, said she saw that the bear had been tampered with Wednesday. Remembering previous years' vandalism of the dogs and frogs, she said she knew someone else could come by and take anything loose off the bear. She found a goldish-colored gear that was about to fall off, removed it and notified the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette, which is in charge of the "Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!" public art exhibit.

Furbush said she will pick up the piece today and begin repairing the bear as soon as possible. That she and Asay have to work on it in the park adds extra difficulty, she said. She noted that the rain expected over the weekend might set the repair plans back somewhat.

Kendall Smith, the executive director of the museum, said the institution would pay for supplies needed to repair the bears.

Furbush and Asay specifically built the gears that were stolen to form to the bear. They even cut apart the animal, made the pieces and then reassembled it, she said. The process added the visual element of making viewers think they were looking inside the creature to see its inner workings.

Asay said it's always a gamble when adding pieces to public art because artists know they can be removed, but he thought the gears were necessary to the overall sculpture.

They worked on project from Feb. 1 to April 23, Furbush said.

So far, this is the only bear that has been damaged, Smith said. On Friday morning, he was out putting plaques on the bears and checking them for vandalism.

"Hopefully it won't happen again. … That was one of the most spectacular pieces of sculpture in the whole project," Smith said.

"Why would anybody do that? I can't figure it out."

Vandalism has been an issue with public art in years past. This year, Smith said that most of the animals are in view of commercial and city security cameras and that the West Lafayette, Lafayette and Purdue police will patrol the art. The bears also are bolted down with special security fasteners.