Less than five days after it was unveiled, one of the 83 Herky on Parade statues was damaged over night.
Josh Schamberger, president of the Iowa City/Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said University of Iowa police discovered the broken statue, titled “Reflections of U,” Friday morning. Located on the UI Pentacrest, the six-foot fiberglass statue — which is covered in dark, reflective tiles — was broken at the knees.
“They put a lot of weight on his back and neck and head and tipped him over to the point he cracked at the ankles,” Schamberger said of the statue.
The statue was done by Cedar Rapids artist Kim O’Meara, a retired art teacher. Schamberger said O’Meara was “devastated, to say the least,” by the news.
A crew from the visitors bureau collected the statue Friday morning and delivered it to the studio of Cedar Rapids sculptor Tom Newport, who assisted O’Meara with its creation. O’Meara and Newport will now try to figure out how to repair the statue, something O’Meara said will prove to be difficult.
“From the extensive damage that was done to the fiberglass frame, it will not be able to be repaired so it looked the way it did,” O’Meara said Friday. “We do have a plan on how we might be able to restore it. It will look a lot different, but it might be salvageable. If that works, great. If not, we’ll start over from scratch.”
Starting over will be no small task. O’Meara said she worked day and night on the statue for three weeks in March to create the statue. The tile for the statue was special ordered.
The current “Reflections of U” is actually the second in a series by O’Meara. The first debuted during the first Herky on Parade event in 2004. It won the People’s Choice award, but was also damaged while it was on display. O’Meara said some vandals tore the first statue off its stand and threw it into Jefferson Street. She was able to repair it.
“I was thinking about how the piece was titled ‘Reflections of U,’” O’Meara said. “How does this vandalism reflect our community? It’s an offense against the whole community when public art is tampered with.”
Schamberger said he will do anything he can to “make an example” of whoever was responsible for the damage. Five or six statues were vandalized during the 2004 project.
“I knew it was going to come at some point,” Schamberger said of the vandalism. “It still bugs you to know something like this would happen to the university mascot. Maybe they don’t realize every one of these will be auctioned off.”
Proceeds from the auction will benefit the United Way, Schamberger said.
Schamberger said each of the statues placed in the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall, and most of the statues on campus, are covered by camera surveillance. He said police are reviewing that footage with hopes of finding the perpetrator. Schamberger is also hopeful someone saw something and will report it to police.
“We’re not going to let these bullies — and that’s what they are, bullies — we’re not going to let them bully us,” O’Meara said.
The UI Police Department said the statue is valued at $5,000. They are asking anyone with information to contact the police department at 335-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.