Friday, July 4, 2003

ArtWalk moves forward, despite vandalism

By Rosemary Ford
Staff Writer

LAWRENCE -- Haverhill artist Jack Welch uses his sculptures to convey ideas
and messages.
Last year, he wanted his gigantic shopping cart called "Resurrection" --
part of an outdoor sculptural exhibit called ArtWalk along Lawrence's North
Canal -- to inspire public debate about the cleanup of the canal. But it
also became a recepticle for trash and the target negative comments.
So this year Welch wanted to give the public what they wanted -- something
pretty. He built three 19-foot flowers in pots and set them adrift in the
"It's just a goof on what is pretty and what is art and how some art isn't
considered pretty to some," said Welch.
This year no one is laughing, including the artists. Vandals attacked the
exhibit, throwing one piece into the canal and spraying anti-war slogans
along a railing bordering the canal. They also spray painted an anti-war
message across a sculpture called "The Way of Peace." This, after the
inaugural ArtWalk last year suffered from vandalism in the form of a
twice-beheaded statue.
This year's ArtWalk is going forward as planned, with 10 exhibits along the
Lawrence canal, minus three vandalized items that will soon return.
"Everything is going back like (the graffiti) didn't exist," said Lawrence's
Terry Bastian, a co-organizer of the 10-artist exhibit. "(The artists) all
have something to say. This is about a dialogue. It's evolving into a very
thoughtful exhibition. I can't wait to see what is going to happen next
year. We are not going to be silenced, that's for sure."
An opening reception will officially kick off the exhibit on July 27, but
most of the exhibits are in place, and organizers vow to go forward,
regardless of the vandals.
"Every time there is art in any community there is always vandalism of some
sort," said Bastian, also the executive director of Environmental Arts, a
Lawrence organization dedicated to outdoor artistic expressions. "We have
already started a dialogue with the people who spray painted the railing."
Lawrence Police Chief John J. Romero has an idea about who vandalized the
show, too, but the police have no official suspects. He assigned community
police officers to investigate the graffiti.
Controversy isn't something Bastian and co-organizer Sara J.H. Ashodian of
Nahant want to court with the exhibit, but so far, it does seem to follow
"It's good to shake people up a little," said Ashodian, who was one of four
artists who participated in the show last year. "It's not good to be
Last year, Bastian had his own sculpture -- a nude called "The Homeland is
Secure" -- stolen and decapitated.
The evolution of that sculpture gave him the idea for his current piece,
"Currents." The rope-like structure slung across the canal collects floating
plants and trash in the water. With the addition of more plant life, Bastian
says "Currents" will evolve into a floating garden built on trash.
"It's not macramé," he joked. "It's a machine that will clean the water."
Bastian and Ashodian wanted to bring positive attention to the canal through
their exhibit while promoting contemporary art.
"I am just as interested in the truck drivers and the kids who walk by here
as the critics and the collectors," said Bastian, who wants to bring art to
the people in the public even when its risky. "It's important to make (art)
relevant as part of their lives, not just part of a museum."