Vandals again strike Beacon 3D
By Brian PJ Cronin
For the second time in two months, a sculpture that was part of Beacon 3D, the annual exhibit of outdoor public artworks, has been vandalized.
Judy Sigunick’s clay sculpture SHE, installed outside the Howland Cultural Center at 477 Main St., was decapitated sometime in the early morning hours of Sunday, Aug. 7. Eleni Smolen, the founder and director of Beacon 3D, told The Current that a neighbor reported hearing a rowdy crowd outside the Howland Center at 3 a.m. There are no surveillance cameras at the Howland or any of the surrounding buildings.
“I have to wonder why after three years of no incidents of vandalism for Beacon 3D sculptures, why, in 2016, we have two so far,” Smolen said. In the early hours of June 5, John Reichert’s sculpture The Yawner was found broken in half outside the Beacon Bread Company. Reichert has repaired the sculpture and reinstalled it on the patio of Bank Square Coffeehouse.
“Last year we had 20 sculptures on Main Street without a problem,” said Smolen. “Beacon is going through some growing pains and I can only hope that the sculpture project is not getting scapegoated as a symbol of gentrification as development in the city escalates. Best-case scenario is that it was some outsiders partying a little too hard that have no connection to the community here.
“The irony for me is that I started this project for the community and the families and artists that live and work and raise their kids here — for the people in town who might not otherwise go into galleries and look at art.”
The remnants of the sculpture and are back in Sigunick’s studio. “Everybody’s caught in the headlights and we’re all a little stunned,” said Sigunick. “But as I’m thinking about how to repair it I’m becoming a little unstunned.”
Sigunick created the sculpture in 2009 for an outdoor exhibit at Ulster Community College. “It’s a very special piece for me because of the way it was made,” she said, which was with clay that a friend dug up from her yard in New Paltz. During the process of making the sculpture, the clay fractured and “did all sorts of funky and wonderful things,” said Sigunick, whose work often addresses the beauty revealed when objects break down or fall apart. SHE was inspired by the high number of birds that die each year by flying into windows.
Although the work is currently in pieces, the fractures have revealed ways in which Sigunick said she can make the piece stronger. She’s already identified a spot in the new cracks where a stake can be installed to fortify it.
Sigunick hasn’t made up her mind yet if she would like to reinstall the repaired work for the remaining two months of the Beacon 3D exhibit, although she said that if she does, it won’t be back in front of the Howland. She’s preparing to take down a show in Manhattan but hopes to find the time to have SHE repaired by the end of next week. “If it is going to be reinstalled, it should happen quickly,” she said.
While the vandalism has been a discouraging trend to Beacon’s community of artists, Sigunick isn’t letting it slow her down.
“I’m an artist,” she said. “And so, with pride, I will make it bigger and better than I did before. When disaster strikes, you can’t just grin and bear it. You smile and use it as an opportunity.”
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