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Nancy Fleming

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September 27, 2013
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Art vandals disgrace, disgust our community

I am stunned. Actually, I am appalled. One of the five pieces of “Nevada City Alchemy,” part of ART OnSite along the Tribute Trail, has been smashed to pieces.

The pieces were found in the trees below the NID Newtown ditch. In addition, one of the placards by the collaborative, “Unmanned Minerals,” was ripped from its post and destroyed. It was found lying by the side of Champion Mine Road at the bottom of Woods Ravine.

Our project had been in place for less than two weeks.

I can’t conceive of these actions. ART OnSite has been a labor of love. It is a gift to the community from a group of volunteers who spent two years conceiving of, shepherding and finally, on Sept. 7, unveiling the project. The installations represent the hard work of eight well-regarded arts professionals who gave of their time and energy to be a part of this project. These pieces represent their life’s work.

ART OnSite organized an artist-in-residence program immediately after the unveiling. Fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders from Yuba River Charter School participated in a two-day work session with three of the artists. Day one was spent on the site, observing the installations and the environment. The students kept journals of their observations. Day two was spent in the classroom, translating their site visit into art; two-dimensional mapping, three-dimensional clay work and poetry. We have received many kudos from the participants.

This vandalism is a slap in the face of the project, the numerous stakeholders, the National Endowment for the Arts, the private funders, Yuba River Charter School and our community as a whole.

Was this done out of anger? Or a misunderstanding of the project’s intent? I can only say that if some kind of ill will exists in the community about the project, I would hope it would be addressed through discussion and not violence. Art, especially environmental art such as this, is intended to be more than “decoration.” It should question, challenge, inform and maybe even provoke the viewer. It should initiate discussion. A public dialog about these pieces would be wonderful.

When our artists were brought onto the project, the obvious question of vandalism was raised. I told them that, of course, ART OnSite could not ensure that no harm would come to their installations. But, I said proudly, the Tribute Trail, along with benches, signs and other amenities, has been in place for a couple of years and nothing has yet been defaced. I’ve since lost a little of that faith.

Everyone is not expected to love all or any of the installations. However, basic respect is expected. Your help in making this happen would be a great contribution. ART OnSite requests that you report any suspicious behavior or vandalism to the Nevada City Police Department or the Nevada County Sheriff.

My sincere apologies go out to artists: Daniel Brickman, Sacramento; Matthew Hebert, San Diego; Jared Stanley, Reno; and Gabie Strong, Los Angeles. I hope that these acts of disgrace will not sour you on Nevada City.

Nancy L. Fleming lives in Nevada City.

ART OnSite has been a labor of love. It is a gift to the community from a group of volunteers who spent two years conceiving of, shepherding and finally, on Sept. 7, unveiling the project.


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The Union Updated Sep 27, 2013 11:46PM Published Sep 27, 2013 11:46PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.