A large stainless steel sculpture on exhibit at the Lake Anne Plaza in Reston was dumped into a sand and gravel maintenance yard last week, a victim of "non-art lovers," vandals and, finally, "an incredible bureaucratic blunder" according to the sculptor, Jim Sanborn.
Sanborn, a Glen Echo artist, had put the 2,000-pound sculpture called "Roll-Off" into the plaza as part of an exhibition at the Greater Reston Arts Center July 1. He said he wanted to exhibit it outside "because I like the visuals out there. As Reston was first conceived, it was designed for very sensitive people. It was sensitive to the arts," said Sanborn.
"But," as Sanborn said he soon found out, "the character seems to have changed."
The day after the show opened, according to Judy Forst, executive director of GRACE, the sculpture had been shifted to a diagonal position along the lake. Two weeks later, after a long weekend, Forst said she looked over and "the sculpture had been taken apart. It was lying on the ground in pieces and a lift-bed truck was out there to take it away."
Forst said that two days before, she learned that some "part-time artists" had decided to "Restonize" the sculpture and picked it up and moved it on its side, vertically. "They put it back, but came back the next night to move it and it broke.The sculpture was in pieces."
Gulf-Reston spokesman Bill Steiner said the sculpture became a health hazard to children after it came apart and the sculpture was ordered removed from the plaza. "The maintenance people saw it early Tuesday morning and it appeared to be dangerouse," said Steiner. "We tried to call the director of GRACE but weren't able to get ahold of her, so the maintenance men took it away."
The sculpture was "removed" to the maintenance yard, where, according to Sanborn, the crew "dumped it into the yard, but not far enough out of the way so they rammed it to move it back." Sanborn said the surface of the highly polished piece was severely scratched because of the way it was handled by the men.
Steiner said the maintenance people "slid" the piece off the truck. "I don't think it's fair to blame our people about any damage to the piece, they did as much as they could."
Sanborn said it "was personally something of a shock to have one's piece treated as a piece of junk.
"My sculpture is very cold and most people don't relate to them on a personal level. So something which looks like a heating duct they don't care about. They major thing that irks me is how irresponsible it was," he said.
Sanborn had insured the piece for $4,600 and is currently discussing ways to recover his losses on the piece.
Forst said the piece had created controversy since the day it appeared on the plaza. "One man came in and asked if we had received permission to put it there. Then he said, 'There are some non-art lovers in Reston and they would like to hae it removed.' I had never heard anyone say 'non-art lover' before. But maybe the piece was successful because it moved someone enough to say that. People didn't know what it was, but they said the more they saw it, the more they liked it."
Steiner said he "was sad to see the vandalism in the same way. I'm sad to see spray paint on a brick wall. But it was impractical for it to be there. It was obviously susceptible to be tampered with."
Forst said the vandalism and resulting damage to the sculpture "gives Reston and the Arts Center a bad name. It is a little disturbing. We are really here for the support of the arts and to teach and learn more about it." Sanborn, who is currently at work on a 500,000-pound cement and steel sculpture for the city of Baltimore, calls the whole thing an "incredible bureaucratic blunder.
"I thought the piece would be nice out there. I even picked a horizontal piece so it wouldn't disturb the view of the lake. It will just never be the same as what it was."