FORT WAYNE — Hours of work and emotion shattered. Terry Ratliff‘s bench along the river greenway is now in pieces. “It took me about two weeks of nonstop six hours a day,” he said. A few months ago he was asked to paint a bench as part of an art project with the city and Artlink. He wasn’t originally picked to be one of the artists to do this; he filled in when someone couldn’t participate. So, with a late start, he worked hard. And a lot.
It overlooked the river next to the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge. A text from a friend showed Ratliff that was all over. “Well they first asked me how I was doing and I said I’m fine why and they said oh it’s not good,” he said. Then the friend sent him a picture of the destruction. Something so hurtful it brought him to tears. “Oh, it hurt my feelings like crazy. I mean it was almost like a train hitting me. The emotions came out, you know, the work you put into it,” he said.
Ratliff has been working as a full time artist in Fort Wayne for 20 years. He says he could paint on the now empty stone. But the frame of the bench was found in the water downstream. So instead, he’s advocating for public art, and is going to try to rebuild what was destroyed. “I want to turn a negative into a positive. This person obviously did it to hurt me or hurt someone or maybe they’re just a troubled person. They destroyed something that was beautiful. Whereas I can rebuild it and put my positive energy into it and make it a nice piece of Fort Wayne,” he said.
John Perlich, spokesman for the City, released the following statement:
We’re deeply disappointed that someone would deliberately damage a piece of artwork that was part of the Riverfront Fort Wayne art benches project. As a community, we’ve come together in support of riverfront development and the arts. The City of Fort Wayne partnered with Artlink Contemporary Gallery to work with local artists in the transformation of 10 former Citilink bus stop benches into attractive, functional works of public art. The Fort Wayne Police Department is investigating this incident.”
Anyone with any information on the vandalism should contact Fort Wayne Police at 427-1222.