July 5 2012 12:00 AM

$2,000 reward offered for information about destruction of 'Meditation Tower'


Art by the River, an outdoor gallery of 10 sculptures on display along the River Trail in downtown Lansing, opened in mid May. It was created with the intention of bringing easily accessible art to the public.

But on June 25, one of the sculptures, “Meditation Tower,” was found shattered.

“Its very evident that this was vandalism,” said Catherine Babcock, executive director of the Lansing Art Gallery and curator of Art by the River, which continues
until Aug. 30. The statue, which was insured, was valued at $28,000.

“The wind didn’t blow it over; the piece weighed around 1,000 pounds,” Babcock added. “I’m not sure how it was done, but there were a lot of pieces and there is no chance for repair — it was too damaged.”

The artist, Mark Chatterley of Williamston, has requested not to be contacted about the incident, but Babcock said he was very upset about it when he was informed. He cleaned up the debris shortly afterward.

“We, of course, feel badly for the artist,” said Rick Kibbey, chairman of the City of Lansing park board and Second Ward representative. “Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. Its not only in Lansing, but anywhere else in the world. There seems to be something in a certain kind of mind that takes satisfaction from destroying stuff. Its something we have to work around, but it should not cause us to give up.”

Although the actual statue is gone, a large photograph of the piece has been placed in its location on the River Trail so that visitors can still see a representation of the sculpture, along with the nameplate, website information, QR code and phone number to call to listen to Chatterley talk about his inspiration.

“Its unfortunate it can’t be original, but I still think it is important to include in the exhibit,” Babcock explained. “We don’t want people to miss out, even though the physical statue is gone.”

Another statue was also knocked over last week, but it sustained no damage.
There are currently no leads on suspects, but the reward for information leading to a conviction has been raised to $2,000.

Captain Mike Yankowski of the Lansing Police Department said there have been no further reports of vandalism since the “Meditation Tower” incident; he urged anyone with information about the Art by the River cases to contact the police or Crime Stoppers of Mid-Michigan at (517) 483-7867.

Yankowski said the police department has been sending out officers on bicycles and motorcycles to keep an eye on the River Trail area, as well as “a volunteer patrol utilizing golf carts: They’re on Monday through Sunday, 36 volunteers out at various times of the day.” The volunteers serve as what Yankowski calls “the eyes and ears of the river walk, like Neighborhood Watch.”

The police investigation continues, and footage from security cameras in the area is under review. But Babcock says that it’s very unlikely that any of the cameras were in positions that would have caught the person or persons responsible.

This was not the first act of vandalism against one of Babcocks outdoor art galleries. Last summer, several of the pieces featured in Art by the Rivers predecessor, City Streets, which included printed canvas replicas of paintings and other works of art, were the target of graffiti.

Despite this incident, Babcock remains positive about future public art exhibits.

“I like to think that it won’t affect artists wanting to continue showing their work and people continue seeing the work,” she said.

She also explained that a recent survey she took showed that 44 percent of the people visiting Art by the River came to Lansing specifically for that reason, which provides a huge boost to the economy and reputation of the city.

“I wouldn’t want that small fraction of the community that caused this to prevent us from doing projects like this in the future. I’d like to encourage people to go, it’s a fantastic show and there’s still lots to see,” Babcock said.

“However, I may put more cameras out next time.”