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Charly Haley, Published September 15 2012

Public art project marred by vandalism, local artist says

FARGO – People who walked down Broadway in downtown Fargo on Friday may have noticed the colorful yarn and fabric sleeves adorning the lampposts.

But Saturday, they may have noticed that some of the sleeves are missing, and others damaged.

Fargo artist Mara Morken, 35, put up the sleeves on Friday, and numerous people stopped to ask questions or compliment the sleeves.

“A lot of people asked, ‘Can I touch them?’ With public art, that’s part of it,” she said.

Then, on Saturday, Morken says three of the sleeves were missing, and some were damaged.

“There are sleeves that have huge holes in them,” she said. “Different pieces that were sewn onto the sleeves were ripped off. Others you can see where they tried to rip them down.”

She was especially sad because “two of the stolen sleeves were made by children,” she said.

She believes the sleeves were vandalized.

“You would think in the Midwest, people would be more respectful,” Morken said. “It was very disheartening.”

Morken moved to Fargo two years ago from New York, where “there was public art everywhere,” she said.

She’s made an effort to bring that vibe of public art to Fargo-Moorhead by organizing fiber artists to make sleeves for “yarn-bombing” downtown Fargo.

“In Fargo-Moorhead there’s just a wealth of creativity, but it’s all in galleries, behind closed doors,” she said.

Many of the sleeves are knitted or crocheted, but some are sewn and quilted. They were made by people of all ages.

Kim Baird, 58, made a sleeve and liked the idea of displaying it downtown.

“People who like to knit, they go a little kooky about it,” Baird said, “so it’s a chance for them to get the word out that knitting is a great thing.”

There were also participants from outside the F-M area. Morken said a woman in Texas sent a sleeve to be put on a lamppost outside The Gardner building, where her son, an NDSU student, lives.

Originally, Morken was planning on leaving the sleeves out until January.

Baird had said she thought the sleeves would “look great in the wintertime,” adding color to a snowy Broadway.

Now, Morken doesn’t know if she wants to keep the display out at all.

“I don’t think I can have these pieces out to be destroyed,” she said.

Morken had also wanted to do more community public art projects, but now she doesn’t think she will.

“This is just discouraging,” she said.

She said if anyone knows of a place where the sleeves can be displayed safely, they can contact her at maramorken@yahoo.com.


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Charly Haley at (701) 235-7311