Editor: On or about July 8, someone stole one of the 42 benches installed throughout the Town of Vienna as public art.
“Who did this?” and “What happened to the bench?” are the obvious questions being asked by the Vienna police. But the more hopeful question would be whether the thief, overcome by a swelling of conscience, will find a way to return it.
The Vienna Arts Society’s project was made possible by the wholehearted support of the town’s officials and the financial sponsorship from many of the town’s businesses. Based on the public’s reaction, the project has been a success.
The artist who painted the stolen bench, far from being discouraged, has offered to paint a new bench. Notwithstanding, the theft is a crime against the Vienna Arts Society, as well as a transgression against all the businesses that sponsored the benches, particularly Grass Roots Fitness, the sponsor of the stolen bench. It is also an affront to the town and a show of blatant disrespect to its residents and visitors.
The Vienna Arts Society, like the bench’s artist, will not be deterred by this. Nor, we expect, will the town, which has a cultural vigor and civic-mindedness that is outstanding.
We remain committed to the idea that public art is symbolic of communal validation and worth the effort. Art is an act of creation, the highest form of validation. It is not possible to permanently stop acts of creation by periodic acts of violence. Acts of creation are vulnerable only to indifference. We will not ignore what has happened.
We ask the public to whom this message is addressed not to ignore it. Any information about the theft should be reported to the Vienna Police Department.
The bench may have disappeared forever, or it may be found. Or, perhaps the thief will be compelled to perform an act of conscience. That would be the best outcome possible.
Kenneth Britz, Vienna
Britz is writing on behalf of the Vienna Arts Society.