CommuniTree Vandalized by Cowardly Art Critic(s)

Graffiti mark applied to tree was pathetic attempt at protest


Courtesy: Caffeinated Politics.

The iron tree sculpture that welcomes those traveling eastbound on Williamson to the neighborhood was dedicated Friday (September 12) in a ceremony at Bandung restaurant due to rain.

Named the CommuniTree, the 32-foot tall sculpture stands in the median of Willy street adjacent to Machinery Row and the Gateway Shopping Center.

The tree was erected on August 3, garnering some praise and some comments of disdain; such as describing the tree as akin to a toilet brush, according to the Caffeinated Politics Blog.

In the days before it was dedicated last Friday, someone or several painted a yellow dot on the side of the tree. The dot was likely meant to mimic the City of Madison’s method for identifying trees that need to be removed due to the Emerald Ash Borer.

“Need-less-to-say, I am saddened and disappointed by the graffiti”, said MNA Arts & Culture Committee Co-Chair Sharon Kilfoy.

In the days after the tree was installed a small kerfuffle erupted on the MNA Listserv over how much the organization contributed to the project. Whether that was in direct response to the final visual disposition of the project, it wasn’t immediately clear through the discourse.

Created by metal artist Erica Koivunen and her husband, Blacksmith Aaron Howard, the project was commissioned by the Marquette Neighborhood Association Arts & Culture Committee which has been supporting public art works up and down Williamson Street.


Original artists rendition of the CommuniTree.

The $60,000 sculpture had support from the Madison Arts Commission as well as grants from private and corporate donors.

MNA has contributed a total of $30,000 to the overall public art initiative according to Arts & Culture Co-chair Scott Thornton.

Whomever committed this act of protest over the final form of this piece of art, they obviously are too clever by half to notice that this neighborhood encourages public opinions through many types of canvases: the Mother Fools’ permission wall, the mosh pit that is the MNA Listserv and Photoshop paired with the much contested paper kiosks.

Koivunen and Howard should be allowed to express their artistic voice alone; without other voices present in their art. The Willy Street Blog loves a good pun, an acerbic but well-constructed jab and even well-sourced biting critique.

The artistic criticism visited upon the CommniTree was not timely nor funny.

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7 thoughts on “CommuniTree Vandalized by Cowardly Art Critic(s)

    • I’ve added the original artist’s rendition from when the project was first announced. I think many thought the canopy would have a wider span.

  1. I wish I could be angry about it but I just can’t. It’s one yellow dot, I smiled when I saw it, and it’ll be easy to clean up. The only reason I think the dot should be removed is that other “artists” would think they could tag it and their work might stay there too.

    The tree has been up for a few weeks and already it’s been worked into the local folklore.

    • The fact that someone had to clean up the sculpture should make us all angry. There are no degrees or number of yellow dots that makes this o.k. Noone who had a hand in creating the art piece gave the person(s) who vandalized sculpture permission to modify the original work…no matter how funny or clever some people think the act was.

      • I understand the concept, and I wish I felt the same way. I am sorry that I do not. There are so many other things that make me angry, I wish I could add this to the list.

  2. You know, that’s not how I interpreted the dot at all. When I saw it, I thought it was quite a clever and apropos comment on the city’s current policy toward the urban forest. Cut them down! Cut them all down! Of course, I agree that the vandalizer should have consulted with the artists first. But don’t be so quick to judge motive – a lot of the world’s woes come from misinterpreting intent of action.

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