Graffiti goes bad at Art League

Spray-painted vandalism has been discovered on and around the Elkhart Art League building in High Dive Park.
Posted on July 30, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 30, 2013 at 5:57 p.m.

ELKHART — Some artists apparently can’t stay within the lines. Or follow rules.

That seems to be the case at High Dive Park, where officials found numerous instances of spray-painted vandalism on and around the Elkhart Art league’s building where the organization recently introduced a unique graffiti program.

The art league has been permitting graffiti artists to display their work on the exterior of the building for several weeks, but extensive images have been spray painted on the shingled roof.

Nearby sidewalks, parking barriers and asphalt were also spray painted.

Much of what is considered vandalism likely occurred over the past weekend.

Representatives of the parks department and art league said they’ve been told none of the art on the building appears to be gang-related.

A report was filed with police Monday. Laura Koch, assistant chief of the Elkhart Police Department, said the reported incident happened sometime between 8 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. Monday.

Koch said the report was made because of damage made to the building and not because of the extensive graffiti on the building’s roof and sidewalk.

Officials are most concerned about damage to the roof where — in addition to the paint — a chimney was knocked off its base, said Ellen Ridenour, vice president of the art league.

Artists had been told to limit their work to the walls and not the roof.

Whether the graffiti program continues is unclear.

Ridenour said the league may very well choose to cover up the walls and end the program if the vandalism results in bad publicity.

Ridenour said an art league meeting would be held Thursday and the program’s future will be discussed.

“We’ve been around for 90 years and we’re just trying to get it going again,” Ridenour said. Art league members check the building daily and look for inappropriate art and then cover up those portions, she said.

Overall the program had been going well, and Ridenour said recent good publicity might be responsible for an uptick in the number of people registering for art classes.

“It’s been a positive though, except for a few kinds and some people who don’t understand what’s going on,” Ridenour said.

The vandalism to the sidewalk and asphalt probably happened last weekend, said park superintendent Karin Frey.

Some of the images on the roof, including one of a bong, showed up about a week ago, she said.

Ridenour said she suspects most of the problems happen at night.

Frey said she doesn’t think the graffiti program spawned the vandalism.

She said children and adults have enjoyed the graffiti program.

“It’s really sad that there is someone out there who feels he or she needs to do that and take the advantage away from those who are following the rules,” Frey said.

Frey and Ridenour said they think the problems are limited to just a few people.

“It just takes a couple kids to ruin it for everybody,” Ridenour said.

The art league is aware of one man who objects to the graffiti program.

Ridenour said she tried to explain the program to him, but that he launched a Facebook page, Elkhart Apathy, highlighting what he views as problems. The web page includes photos of the damage.

The art league leases the building and is responsible for the building, Frey said.

Truth Reporter Sharon Hernandez contributed to this story.

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