A symbol associated with a Lodi street gang has been etched into a life-sized sculpture of a musician on School Street, prompting disgust from local merchants.
“I’m surprised it took this long for something to happen,” said Hannah Kemalyan, a hairstylist at Texture Salon, a business across the street from the vandalized sculpture. “They’re exposed out there and police can’t possibly patrol by them all day and night.”
Seward Johnson’s “Harmony vs. Discord” was put on display on the corners of Oak and School streets several weeks ago. It’s one of 10 life-sized sculptures on loan from the internationally known artist to the city through mid-July. Recently, passersby noticed “X3” was etched in the sculpture and informed police.
Graffiti and vandalism with the number 13 in it, either with Roman numerals or digits, is a common calling card for the Sureños street gang, said Cpl. Scott Bratton, of the Lodi Police Department.
“You’ll see it on sidewalks or buildings,” he said. “The number 14 is for the Norteños.”
Employees of businesses near the artwork have noticed people taking pictures with the statues or pretending to fondle them, but haven’t seen anything that indicated vandalism was imminent.
“I’m here until 2:30 or 3 a.m.; that statue is right across the street and I’ve never seen anything out of the ordinary,” said Scott McLeod, general manager of Rosewood Bar & Grill. “It’s unfortunate, and it’s bad taste.”
“Harmony vs. Discord” also had a light-hearted addition made to it before Wednesday’s vandalism. An open suitcase was put before the statue recently and pedestrians have thrown their spare change into it.
Officer K.C. Schlader’s beat is Downtown, and he said he noticed the suitcase some time ago and left it there because it isn’t really vandalism.
The statue is of a man with dirty blonde hair playing an acoustic guitar. He’s dressed in ripped blue jeans with a tucked-in button-up shirt. His right leg is propped up on a chair affixed to the piece. The vandalism is located on the guitar.
The statues are not the property of the city of Lodi. Seward’s The Sculpture Foundation loaned the 10 life-sized pieces to the city through July 15. Lodi’s Arts in Public Places Fund paid $30,000 to display the sculptures starting in mid-April.
“I wonder how much it will cost us to fix it,” McLeod said of the vandalism.
A local business advocate also expressed displeasure with the situation.
“I doubt who did this reads the newspaper, but I’d like to ask them what message they are trying to communicate,” said Pat Patrick, president and CEO of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce. “I’m sure we could help find them a better vehicle to tell their story.”
In a prepared statement, the director of The Sculpture Foundation said the vandalism to the piece is unfortunate but part of the risk of showing art in public.
“We understand there is risk involved, but we also know that overall, the appreciation well outweighs any act of bad judgment,” Paula Stoeke wrote in an email. “While disappointing, these incidents are rare and do not deter us from our desire to share the collection.”
The foundation did not comment on potential costs associated with repairing the sculpture.
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.