By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – The flamingo sculptures in Art Alley may have withstood their first winter out of doors like the graceful but sturdy birds they represent, but they’re no match for mischief-makers.
Twice this winter, vandals have damaged the 7-foot-tall resin birds, which are part of an outdoor public art project created by two local artists, Naomi Moes Jenkins and Shannon Koltz, commissioned by Definitely De Pere.
“The first instance involved at least two young men damaging and then keeping a flamingo head,” said De Pere Chief of Police Derek Beiderwieden. “They were caught after we put it out on Facebook.”
The Facebook post led to a tip that turned out to be right.
“When one suspect was approached, he confessed entirely and gave us back the head,” Beiderwieden said.
Police issued citations to the two young men and are seeking restitution.
“The second instance was the same damage, not too long after the repairs were done from the first instance,” Beiderwieden said. “A flamingo head was found dangling from the body, and we don’t have any suspects at this time.”
He said he believes it’s “highly unlikely” that the second incident was perpetrated by the same people as the first.
“We are considering cameras now after the second instance,” Beiderwieden said.
Art Alley lies between Nicky’s Lionhead Restaurant and T. Alterations/Gyro Kabobs in the 300 block of Main Avenue.
At a January council meeting, after the first incident happened, Alder Jonathon Hansen proposed the city purchase cameras for the alley.
The matter was sent to the Finance and Personnel Committee, which referred it back to city staff for further research.
Hansen said City Administrator Larry Delo directed the information technology director to look into types of cameras and prices.
It was not on the council agenda for Tuesday, March 3.
After the second act of vandalism, the city held discussions with adjacent business owners to see if they might be willing to supply and install the cameras.
“It does not appear that they (the business owners) are willing to move forward with (that),” Hansen said.
Hansen said Delo anticipates security cameras for the alley will be sent out for bids at the same time as the council requests bids for city hall security cameras, which the council voted in favor of in January.
“Assuming the council approves this, the request for bids will go out this spring, and the cameras would be installed sometime in the summer/fall,” Hansen said in an email.
At the dedication for Art Alley, artist Naomi Moes Jenkins said the flamingos – three in total – were an homage to the pink flamingos made locally iconic by the Pink Flamingo Classic softball tournament.