EDITORIAL – Do we have to build cages around the nice things in our city?

Sculptor Joe Fafard’s Oblix being installed at Riverside Park in 2008. (Image: Charo Neville, Kamloops Art Gallery)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

PUBLIC ART, as I’ve often written before, is bound to be controversial because of the fact it’s so public.

Here in the Tournament Capital, public art has given us much to talk about. Sometimes, it’s controversial because we don’t know what it’s supposed to be — artists have a way of welding together a few pieces of metal or chipping away at some rocks and calling it art.

Other times, it’s controversial because we know exactly what it is. We certainly know what the Kamloops Art Gallery’s Joe Fafard bull is — it’s very clearly a bull, private parts and all.

Like children, we’ve been having our giggles over that bull and his “anatomically correct” features for some 20 years now. He’s frequently been vandalized with spray paint and graffiti.

Finally, the vandals have won — the bull will spend some time in storage until restoration work is done and a new location found. Wherever it goes next, it won’t be back at the entrance to Riverside Park.

When it’s re-installed, I recommend a very tall base so it’s not easy to get to. And, maybe, some razor wire strung around it.

That’s what it’s coming to. We don’t seem able to have anything nice for very long without somebody trying to ruin it.

The bull certainly isn’t the first piece of public art to be defaced or damaged. Sometimes it’s vandalized, sometimes thieves have ripped off plaques for the metal in them. (Let me pause here to remind you that graffiti is out-and-out vandalism, not some innocent form of artistic free expression.)

Whether it be public art, benches in our parks, public washrooms or any number of other things that make community life a little nicer, there’s always somebody who wants to wreck them and mess up the town.

Removing these pleasant extras from public view and use, or building cages around them, amounts to surrender, but that seems to be where we’re heading.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9481 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

6 Comments on EDITORIAL – Do we have to build cages around the nice things in our city?

  1. Pierre has the right idea, but it is very difficult for working people,especially in these stressfull times to be involved in the well being of all of societies members.

  2. Tony Brumell // July 19, 2022 at 11:28 PM // Reply

    I think the word vandalism should be defined. I wonder if a 30 ft wall reflecting the afternoon sun onto my home of 40 years would be classified as vandalism or is it much worse when it is sanctioned by the city planing department . YUP ! IT’s true and my future has been virtually destroyed because of it. Don;t believe me ??? Come on up and have a look . It could happen to you.

  3. John Noakes // July 19, 2022 at 1:37 PM // Reply

    I’m not sure the answer is to keep moving things and/or surround stuff with fences and barbed wire to deal with deliberate vandalism.
    Be they sober or stoned, I think whoever bothers to deface public property needs to be held accountable.

  4. Bob Gamble // July 19, 2022 at 11:34 AM // Reply

    Please, please, please let’s stop making excuse for inexcusable behaviour. Castrating the bull has nothing to do with addiction, mental health or expressions of anger and resentment. It’s a few who feel they have a god given right to destroy whatever they want to for whatever reason.

  5. Reid Hamer-jackson // July 19, 2022 at 9:04 AM // Reply

    Hi Mel, No we do not have to Surrender, we have to deal with the addiction and mental Heath crisis we have in our city and hold the Senior management and specific agencies accountable.

  6. Vandalism is perhaps a form of expression for anger and resentment towards a society not concerned with the well-being of all its members?

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