Mural not graffiti, police say

Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier (11.20.2015)

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JC- (w) Spot mural

Spot mural print PDF

This story started to blow up on Facebook after a police officer handed The Spot Tavern a citation for graffiti. Only the art in question — a hot dog bun with male genitalia — was actually a mural commissioned by The Spot. And the business was pretty unhappy about what had happened.

So what did occur?

Finding out took plenty of phone calls by my colleague and me on the day this broke.

Well-known Lafayette resident Ila Solomon started an online petition to have the mural taken down because it was offensive. Solomon previously had pleaded guilty to failing to report a dead body — her husband had lay dead on the floor in their house for more than nine months, according to a forensic entomologist.

But when I wrote the follow-up the next day — the story linked here — the police chief told me Solomon hadn’t filed the complaint. The officer knew it wasn’t graffiti but thought the citation was the best way to handle the complaint. The city ended up determining the mural wasn’t graffiti and withdrew the citation.

The real story, then, wasn’t about Solomon. It was about how a community and the police handled privately commissioned art that was publicly visible and could be found offensive to some.

As it all ended up, The Spot’s owner had a picture of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence pasted over the offending male genitalia. And the controversy died down after that.

Fire sculpture folds in community

Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier (04.14.2016)

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Fire sculpture print PDF

Fire sculpture print PDF

Ceramic artist Nina Hole’s fire sculptures are both magnificent and rare — only about two dozen exist in the world. After Hole designed them, her team built and fired them on site, inviting the community to be involved in the entire process.

Purdue University’s Lonsford Committee commissioned one of these sculptures, which turned out to be the last Hole designed. The celebrated artist died in early 2016 and never saw her last piece, which was built in late March and early April.

Because of its prominent construction spot outdoors on campus, the fire sculpture received plenty of local media attention. So when I wrote in depth on it, I had to find a fresh, meaningful angle. That it was Hole’s last designed sculpture and was to be what one of my sources called an “avant-garde bonfire” were spectacular.

But the artist’s care for people — even after her death — and the community connections the sculpture’s construction formed proved to be both a touching and largely uncovered storyline.

Extraordinary art and garden

Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier (06.25.2015)

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Art in the Garden print PDF

Art in the Garden print PDF

Visual artists have often told me a drawback to working solo in a studio is that they miss being with people. So a causal fair like “Art in the Garden,” which encourages patrons to stop by artists’ booths and ask about their work, stands out.

Capturing that vibe, and its difference from larger art fairs, is at the center of this story along with the garden and its owner. The grounds and home in Battle Ground, Indiana, have been passed from artist to artist, and the details, sculptures and plants on the property tell that story.

Ultimately, I knew encapsulating that would grab the spirit of this popular event.