Bronze memorial vandalized

September 16, 2011

By LISA RIZZO

A San Luis Obispo city-owned bronze sculpture, sentimental to the Chinese community, is damaged after being vandalized several times within the last six months.

Two bronze parts of the Chinese Iron Road Pioneers statue, which sits in San Luis Obispo’s Historic Railroad District and centers a roundabout where Railroad Avenue and Osos Street intersect, were broken off and stolen and one of the large figures was pushed partially over.

The public art piece, cast in solid bronze by renowned artist Elizabeth MacQueen, is of two larger than life Chinese men working on a section of railroad.

At its dedication in 2003, the memorial was one of the first in the nation to commemorate the tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants who made the construction of the nation’s railroad possible. In the 1880s, the pioneers were brought to the Central Coast to help build the “iron road” and open up commerce in San Luis Obispo.

The Central Coast Chinese Association says the “sculpture serves as an enduring monument of the blood, the sweat, and the often shed tears of our ancestors.” Association Vice President of Public Relations Paul Kwong expressed his disappointment with the news.

About three weeks ago, one of the bronze workers succumbed to an “unknown” pressure and became detached from its base. It’s now leaning forward. The City of San Luis Obispo had the statue temporarily soldered for safety.

Neighboring businesses tell CalCoastNews that while closing their restaurants late at night they have observed people climbing and horsing around the statue.

The San Luis Obispo Public Works Department, which oversees city public art, has not filed a police report, believing the vandals did not mean harm; rather it was a case of “nighttime activities and bad ideas combined.”

“Hopefully people did not mean to intentionally do something,” said Public Art Manager Shannon Bates.

“I believe people don’t realize how fragile they [the sculptures] can be, especially bronze,” she said. “It’s supposed to be viewed and not interacted with.”

A crane will need to be brought in to lift the estimated 800-pound statue and facilitate the “intensive repairs,” Public Works says.

This latest damage comes shy of the completion of repairs from the last incident of vandalism which happened in the spring.  Public works officials said this time it appears surely intentional.

The long bronze pony-tail braids of hair were torn off both Chinese pioneers and stolen. Artist MacQueen had to return to San Luis Obispo in April to recast the pieces. The bronze braids are expected to be reattached in the coming months.

In 2002, the statue was valued at $110,000, according to Public Works. The price of bronze has since increased. Repairs will cost $2,000 for the braids alone.

The damage to the Chinese Iron Road Pioneers statue is the worst assault to the town’s public art since the “Hey, Diddle-Diddle” sculpture was stolen from downtown San Luis Obispo about a decade ago, according to Public Works.

That bronze sculpture featuring a cat and a violin was never found and the mystery never solved. The piece was recast and replaced to its Marsh Street location in 2003.

The city is hoping a new program will help nourish an appreciation and respect for public art. It has partnered with ARTS Obispo, the San Luis Obispo County Arts Council, a non-profit which is developing a plan in cooperation with Cal Poly fraternities to watch over the sculptures.

Once the program is underway, fraternity members will divide into groups and each select a local public art piece to clean, protect, and monitor for damage throughout the year, said Arts Council Art in Public Places Committee Chair Ann Ream.

ARTS Obispo Program Director Jenna Hartzell says education is essential to protecting public art work. “We want to keep them lasting longer for the benefit of the community.”


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36 Comments

  1. SloNative46 says:

    “they have observed people climbing and horsing around the statue.” How does someone “horse” around a statue? Do you need a horse? Or, how does one go about “horsing around” a statue? I’m not even sure what that would imply. Suggestion: add two words, to wit, “they have observed people climbing ON and horsing around NEAR the statue.” OK, OK, so I’m a grammar Nazi.

    (-2) 6 Total Votes - 2 up - 4 down
    • easymoney says:

      Good points slonative46. How does one just stumble upon a sculpture and vandalize it, or how does one just horse around a huge installation with no intention of malfeasance. Bad behavior can not be excused by the few and breaking the law is just that, a crime.
      Just because one has lived in San Luis for a few years does not give them reason to excuse idiotic behavior.
      And once again I say, like a dog peeing on tires, if you don’t stop it, it will continue….

      (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
      • mkaney says:

        And I can totally seeing how a dog being allowed to continue to pee on a tire could threaten the rule of law and even the very fabric of our society.

        Have you ever considered writing Monty Python skits?

        (4) 10 Total Votes - 7 up - 3 down
  2. willie says:

    “The memorial was one of the first in the nation to commemorate the tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants who made the construction of the nation’s railroad possible. In the 1880s, the pioneers were brought to the Central Coast to help build the “iron road” and open up commerce in San Luis Obispo.”
    “sentimental to the Chinese community”

    BS, the location and memorial is just a displaced bone tossed to the Chineses, it means nothing!
    Grab any residential or visiting Chinese (young or old) and ask them!
    If it was more centered in town, it would enhance commerce.

    (-5) 17 Total Votes - 6 up - 11 down
    • mkaney says:

      good ol’ willie, tellin it like it is :)

      (0) 10 Total Votes - 5 up - 5 down
    • SloNative46 says:

      “Enhance commerce?” Seems the logical place for a memorial to those who helped build the RR is . . . near the RR. Buses and trains, as well as commercial establishments frequent the area. A memorial’s purpose is to “memorialize,” not to “enhance commerce.”

      (6) 12 Total Votes - 9 up - 3 down
  3. asthecrowphlies says:

    There is a Vietnamese restaurant that faces the statue maybe they would let some art preservation people mount a camera there to monitor the statue . By the way , the food there is great .

    (15) 15 Total Votes - 15 up - 0 down
    • IherpedAndThenI Derped says:

      I love that place… the Mongolian BBQ is amazing

      (7) 7 Total Votes - 7 up - 0 down
  4. pasoparent5 says:

    Put a decorative fence around it.

    (14) 14 Total Votes - 14 up - 0 down
    • mkaney says:

      Now that is actually a very constructive and intelligent idea pasoparent!

      (-2) 6 Total Votes - 2 up - 4 down
    • rtor481 says:

      Excellent idea! And a sign letting people know that the art is delicate and should not be touched or
      played on.

      (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
    • Ugluk says:

      And a squadron of pit bulls, and some navy seals, and maybe sprinkle a few landmines around for good measure…!

      (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
  5. SLOBIRD says:

    If what is happening in SLO is happening in other places, then I can understand why crime rates are down, Don’ t report it and there is no record of a crime. Shame on SLO for 1) not reporting because if this happened over several SLO Police could have been monitoring it, and 2) the community as a whole owes respect to the chinese community that labored and built this community and then turned around and contributed to this beautiful memorial. The City staff (public works and police) failed AGAIN and so many levels, shame on you!

    (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
    • mkaney says:

      Oh so as soon as the numbers don’t back up your perception, it must be because people are not reporting crime as much. Never mind the fact that there are larger number of police officers and more opportunities and incentives to report crime. Never mind the fact that more things are against the law. No, we’ll just make a up a reason when facts become inconvenient.

      (0) 10 Total Votes - 5 up - 5 down
  6. mkaney says:

    Some of you people are seriously just plain stupid. This is not some indicator of a rise in crime. This is not an indicator of things to come. I’m gonna say this one more time, for those of you too daft to understand what a FACT. Crime has DECREASED in San Luis Obispo over the last ten years. PERIOD. End of discussion! It’s a fact! This kind of thing has gone on in San Luis Obispo since the dawn of time. Kids or homeless get drunk and stupid, damage occurs. NOT THAT BIG OF A DEAL.

    I walk by these statues every day and frankly if they have been pushed over, then it is because of shoddy worksmanship, and they need to be properly attached. There is no reason a human being should be able to cause significant damage to these statues, they are large and and heavy.

    (-4) 20 Total Votes - 8 up - 12 down
    • rallyraid says:

      Yeah crime is down, so is gang activity and growth.Santa Maria and Paso are virtually crime free and the number of homeless and unemployed in SLO has dropped dramatically, so have prices, its all just so happy and secure feeling these days.
      You ten year comparison is far to limited on how the Central Coast hasn’t changed in you eyes.
      Perhaps if you’d been here for more than ten years you’d see the reality of how over the decades SLO county and other neighboring counties have gone down hill in many respects including violent crime. As far as calling those who have spent their lives here stupid for their observations it pretty much shows you level of intelligence, or lack of I should say.

      (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
      • mkaney says:

        I was born here in 1972. I know exactly what has been happening. But guess what, I don’t just go on my “observations,” I based my views on reportable facts. It is so FRUSTRATING talking to people who apparently cannot even read statistics, and yet will swear up and down that something is true when it is NOT.

        (-1) 7 Total Votes - 3 up - 4 down
        • easymoney says:

          Interesting that you were born only in ’72 yet claim to have
          facts that go beyond your few years of observation. Many of us have been long before you were born and have the personal experience and history to speak about what has been happening in slo and slo county, yet we are dismissed as so much confetti…
          Many of us are involved in LEO and the Fire Departments which respond tho the many incidents of which these articles are written.
          Until you actually respond to an actual crime or to a real incident please keep your anticdotal information as such to your self or report it as such…

          (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
          • mkaney says:

            What in the world are you talking about? How am I claiming to have facts that go beyond my years of observation? If you’re trying to compare SLO today to SLO of 1960 , well OF COURSE there is more crime, it’s a hell of a lot bigger.. I’m talking about over the last 10-20 years. If you want to talk about how there was less crime in 1955 that’s fine, but I can give you a list of 10 other things about 1955 that demonstrate it wasn’t necessarily the “good old days.”

            (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
      • mkaney says:

        Seriously, do you even know what the definition of FACT is?

        (-3) 5 Total Votes - 1 up - 4 down
      • IherpedAndThenI Derped says:

        THe “crime” we have in slo would make LA folks laugh their ass off

        (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
        • zaphod says:

          we have many drive by shoutings

          (14) 14 Total Votes - 14 up - 0 down
          • mkaney says:

            lol too funny… this is the only town you can leave something like your bike in the driveway overnight and it’s still there in the morning. I have *never* had anything stolen from me in SLO.

            (-2) 10 Total Votes - 4 up - 6 down
    • easymoney says:

      “Some of you people are seriously just plain stupid. This is not some indicator of a rise in crime. This is not an indicator of things to come. I’m gonna say this one more time, for those of you too daft to understand what a FACT. Crime has DECREASED in San Luis Obispo over the last ten years. PERIOD. End of discussion! It’s a fact!”

      ” FBI releases Crimes in the United States 2010″

      “The Federal Bureau of Investigation has released its annual data on the amount of crime in the United States last year.”

      “In San Luis Obispo County, the FBI reports there were 241 violent crimes in 2010, which is up from 199 in 2009.”

      “There were six reports of murder and non-negligent manslaughter compared to three reported in 2009.”

      “Forcible rape cases, and robberies, were down last year from 2009. Burglaries were up with 437 case in 2010, which is compared to 416 in 2009.”

      “In Santa Barbara County, 285 violent crimes were reported in 2010, which is up from 246 in 2009.”

      “There were three cases of murder or non-negligent manslaughter reported, compared to none in 2009. Forcible rape and robbery cases went up last year in Santa Barbara County, however, burglaries were down to 564 for 2010. That’s compared to 647 in 2009.”

      http://www.ksby.com/news/fbi-releases-crimes-in-the-united-states-2010/

      Maybe try reading a little, instead of always calling people names and making attacks…

      (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  7. easymoney says:

    “The San Luis Obispo Public Works Department, which oversees city public art, has not filed a police report, believing the vandals did not mean harm; rather it was a case of “nighttime activities and bad ideas combined.”

    More bad behavior by a small percentage of miscreants and shame on public works for not reporting this crime immediately. Just like a dog marking tires, tagging and vandalism will continue if not squelched immediately. And to think the vandals “meant no harm” is an outrageous and truly ignorant statement.
    I agree we will be seeing much more of this stupid behavior in the future…

    (12) 16 Total Votes - 14 up - 2 down
  8. R.Hodin says:

    $2K of vandalism just for the braids replacement, plus straightening and re-mounting one of the figures, and the damage is not reported to the police. If the vandalism had been done to the Public Works offices the police would likely be there first thing the next morning. I truly don’t understand the depth of art ignorance in this town.

    (16) 18 Total Votes - 17 up - 1 down
    • zaphod says:

      the lovely bronze stands at the center of a very poorly designed intersection, poor design invites/ attracts vandalism the traffic department should review the bike pedestrian auto interface there, where else on earth do you find a traffic circle that blends pedestrian bike and bus in such a way? poor feng shui

      (10) 12 Total Votes - 11 up - 1 down
      • mkaney says:

        It is an extremely low traffic area. It is not a problem.

        (-5) 5 Total Votes - 0 up - 5 down
      • SloNative46 says:

        “Feng shui?” I’ve never had a problem negotiating the roundabout. A pox on both your feng and your shui!

        (-3) 5 Total Votes - 1 up - 4 down
  9. Vallybear says:

    Wake up, SLO! This area is not the one it used to be. People wanted more businesses and with more businesses comes more people and those people are not always the ones that are wanted in town.
    You will see more and more of this and other stuff in days to come.
    Sad, sad, sad.

    (9) 29 Total Votes - 19 up - 10 down
    • mkaney says:

      Where are you from?

      (-1) 9 Total Votes - 4 up - 5 down
      • rallyraid says:

        You should answer the same for us, what hell hole was it you transplanted yourself from and when?

        (3) 7 Total Votes - 5 up - 2 down
        • mkaney says:

          I am from San Luis Obispo.

          (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
          • IherpedAndThenI Derped says:

            Im with you mkaney these people should go to Compton for a day and maybe they will appreciate what we have here a little bit more…

            (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down

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