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Donna Haberman of the Midwest Art Conservation Center in Minneapolis removed graffiti from “Spoonbridge and Cherry” in the Walker Sculpture Garden on Monday. The Claes Oldenburg work was brought back to presentable condition.

Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

'Spoonbridge' is collateral damage in an African war

  • Article by: MARY ABBE
  • Star Tribune
  • April 24, 2012 - 9:23 AM

Minneapolis' iconic "Spoonbridge and Cherry" sculpture survived a weekend graffiti attack and is sparkling again.

The word "Kony," referring to a Ugandan guerrilla/war criminal, was spray-painted on the popular sculpture, a centerpiece of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, early Saturday.

By midday Monday the graffiti was removed but the incident is still being investigated.

Walker Art Center, which trains 24-hour surveillance cameras on the Sculpture Garden, observed people entering the garden about 1:30 a.m. Saturday. Security staff members notified Minneapolis police, who arrived within 10 minutes.

"The police met a couple of people leaving" the garden, said Walker spokesperson Ryan French. However, the Walker didn't realize that the sculpture had been vandalized until dawn on Saturday.

Last weekend a grass-roots "Kony 2012 Cover the Night" campaign encouraged an international display of posters, stickers and murals calling attention to Joseph Kony, leader of a Ugandan guerrilla group accused of abducting children and forcing them to become sex slaves and child soldiers. He has been indicted for war crimes but remains at large. A film about his activities, "Invisible Children," became a YouTube sensation this spring.

The vandalism shocked Kony protester Gawolo Kpissay, a Liberian-born Minneapolis artist who helped distribute anti-Kony fliers along Lake Street and in Uptown Friday night.

"I think that it's super-disrespectful to deface someone's art," said Kpissay, who has participated in Walker programs. When he learned of the vandalism, he went to the Walker to apologize Sunday even though his group had nothing to do with it, he said.

Elsewhere, turnout for the "Cover the Night" campaign was minimal and the effort "flopped in trying to turn that [Internet sensation] into real-world actions," Britain's Guardian reported.

The Walker did not receive any Kony-related protest information, French said. "It could just be someone who was riding along with the activities elsewhere in the city. We're leaving it up to the police to discover."

Sgt. Bill Palmer, Minneapolis police spokesman, had no comment Monday.

French said the Walker is evaluating its security options. "We think we have a good system with the Minneapolis Park Police and the Minneapolis Police Department, but we're certainly looking into whether there are other things we could do to make things safer.

"I'm shocked that people would deface such a beloved object," he added. "Fortunately, we have a great crew and are really happy that it's cleaning up so well."

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