By Misty Volaski
While not exactly the prettiest of birds, the California condor has long been revered by the Chumash and is a vital part of the local ecosystem.
So when the Ojai Valley Museum acquired a condor statue by Carlyle Montgomery in 1997, it was the perfect fit. Made of Belgian limestone and local red serpentine, it stands guard over the back courtyard of the museum.
But on June 13, director Michele Pracy noticed something amiss with the life-sized statue. It had been vandalized near its base, and its serpentine head had been badly smashed. The damage isn’t highly noticeable from far away, but, said Pracy, it is extensive, and will be costly to repair.
She has been told that the head must be entirely resculpted, and the wing tip in which the graffiti was carved must be buffed out. The statue — which also features a man spreading his arms — is insured and can be fixed. But the real tragedy, said Pracy, lies in the fact that Montgomery died one year after the condor was installed. “So it will never be 100 percent his artwork again,” she said. “It’s incredibly sad someone would do this. I guess some people were raised without an appreciation for art. This isn’t like graffiti on a freeway overpass. It’s a very valuable work of art.”
A police report was made, said Pracy, but there have been no arrests to date, according to Ojai Police Capt. Chris Dunn. Certainly, he said, the statue’s current location “provides an opportunity to be shielded from public view. Visibility is good for security. You’ll have a harder time getting away with something” if it’s in full view of the public.
Thankfully, plans had already been made to move the 14-foot-tall statue to the front of the museum in the courtyard near the front door. Pracy said she’s already gotten the go-ahead from the city of Ojai to move the statue, and is focusing on fund-raising efforts to complete the move, which she hopes will happen by the end of the year.
“The statue is insured,” she acknowledged, “but that doesn’t cover the cost of moving it. It’s a huge endeavor.” While she’s raised $5,000 so far toward that effort, there is still more than $12,000 left before the move can take place. It will involve a crane to lift the statue up and over the museum building, from the back to the front. A new base will also need to be constructed and a maintenance schedule must be planned. Pracy also wants to add lighting and a new plaque.
“We’d like it to be our flagship,” Pracy said, “sort of to alert people walking by that there must be something artful in our courtyard.” She paused, adding, “The silver lining here is that the vandalism might inspire people to help us move the statue where it’s always in the public eye. That’s critical.”
Those wishing to donate can contact Pracy at 640-1390, Ext. 201, or visit ojaivalleymuseum.org. Those with information about the vandals should call the Ojai Police Department at 646-1414.