Archive for Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Prayer Booth’ art installation knocked over by vandal

Artist Dylan Mortimer created "Prayer Booth," which was vandalized this weekend on the southwest corner of Seventh and Massachusetts streets. The piece has since been removed by the Lawrence Police Department as evidence.

Artist Dylan Mortimer created "Prayer Booth," which was vandalized this weekend on the southwest corner of Seventh and Massachusetts streets. The piece has since been removed by the Lawrence Police Department as evidence.

May 30, 2007


Prayer Booth vandalized

Vandals struck a sculpture in downtown Lawrence late Sunday evening. Enlarge video

"Prayer Booth" has traveled to Kansas City, Chicago and New York City, but never before has the sculpture experienced damage as it has in Lawrence.

"Nothing this bad, honestly," said artist Dylan Mortimer. "We've seen a lot of graffiti. The reaction has been all over the board. People have been offended, used it jokingly and used it sincerely. It's been really entertaining."

Mortimer describes his sculpture as a public prayer booth. Made from an old telephone booth, the artwork features a design with folded hands instead of a telephone and a kneeler that folds down.

The piece was installed at Seventh and Massachusetts streets for about three weeks before it was damaged.

"It was knocked off its mounting," said City Management Analyst Michael Tubbs. "Someone had to rock it and knock it over."

According to a police spokesman, that's exactly what a witness said happened early Monday to "Prayer Booth," which is one of eight pieces in the 2007 Outdoor Downtown Sculpture Exhibition.

Lawrence police received a call about the vandalism at 2:57 a.m. Monday. When they arrived at Seventh and Massachusetts streets, the artwork, which was bolted into concrete, had been knocked over. A witness told police he saw a man in his early 20s shaking "Prayer Booth" back and forth.

"Somebody had a lot of energy Sunday night, or they had a lot of help," said John Reeves, a member of the Lawrence Arts Commission who leads the Outdoor Downtown Sculpture Exhibition Committee.

The artist believes the vandalism was likely in response to the sculpture's topic. Mortimer said he'd feel annoyed if someone pushed it over in an act of drunkenness, adding that he understands the piece touches on a controversial issue: praying in public.

"My intention is for people to use it or to laugh at it, and some people just scowl at it. All of those are valid reactions to me. The point is to just spark some dialogue, which it did," said Mortimer, who is also a pastor in Kansas City, Mo.

A police spokesman pointed out this is not the first time part of the sculpture exhibit has become the target of vandalism. Last year, a piece called "Future Man" had to be removed from Ninth and Massachusetts streets. In 2004, the sculpture "Self-Portrait as a Midget" was moved to a spot outside the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center after it was damaged several times.

"Anytime you put art in a public space like that, it's vulnerable, but that's not a reason not to put things that are intriguing," said Dave Loewenstein, a member of the Lawrence Arts Commission. "And it shouldn't discourage the arts commission from continuing to do it."

Meanwhile, "Prayer Booth" is being held by police, and Tubbs plans to assess the damage with another city employee today. He thinks the sign at the top of the booth is damaged as well as the base where it broke away from the bolts.

If the sculpture can be repaired, Mortimer hopes to have it standing outside the Eldridge Hotel again soon.

"I'd love to get it put back up and for people to use it to pray," he said.

Police continue to investigate this act of vandalism. The witness describes the man seen shaking the artwork as about 225 pounds, 6-foot-4, with black hair. He was wearing a University of Texas hat and T-shirt, khaki shorts and white tennis shoes. The witness saw him get into a black Toyota Camry and head east on Seventh Street.


lunacydetector 11 years ago

i bet the vandal considers himself to be an "open minded" individual.

latinlab 11 years ago

actually I think it was probably a conservative freak

topekan7 11 years ago

This sounds like the the type of vandalism that is not only condoned in Lawrence, but is actually celebrated. If this was an anti-war sculpture, the outrage would be far more intense than this will generate.

drewfuss 11 years ago

Can I buy one of these on the internets?

Maybe the vandal was peeved his prayer (to destroy the sculpture) was not answered, and he had an epiphany that maybe people should do things for themselves rather than wait around for god to take of everything. The man later went on to become a godless liberal who wants to eat your babies.

latinlab 11 years ago

Oh by the way. If the vandal is reading this: you forgot about the camaras on the traffic lights on top of the intersection, the cameras at the Eldrige Hotel, and the cameras close to Hobbs. Oh, and of course all the upstairs neighbors who saw you. Turn yourself in buddy. Vandalism carries a cosly fine.

fascinating_person 11 years ago

..................or maybe some drunk guy wanted to knock sh*t over indiscriminately.

lunacydetector 11 years ago

brownshirts applies to the leftists. censorship is fine as long as it applies to the right wing, right logrithmic?

cowboy 11 years ago

my bet , drunk college kid with no political agenda but high hormonal content

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 11 years ago

Or maybe it was that mentally ill guy who knocked over statue at Haskell Cultural Center.

craigers 11 years ago

Not surprising this sculpture is the one that a "drunk" just happened to choose to knock over, especially here in Lawrence.

TheEleventhStephanie 11 years ago

The witness describes the man seen shaking the artwork as about 225 pounds, 6-foot-4, with black hair. He was wearing a University of Texas hat and T-shirt, khaki shorts and white tennis shoes. The witness saw him get into a black Toyota Camry and head east on Seventh Street.

Sounds like some kind of frat boy to me.

craigers 11 years ago

logrithmic, I'm sure you would be saying the same thing if a sculpture about pro-choice had been knocked over. I'm sure you wouldn't automatically think it was some Christian that knocked it over since they didn't agree with it. Wow, the hypocrisy is deep today and it's only 7:45am!!

PotSmokinRepublican 11 years ago

Lawrence has to be one of the least tolerant, hypocritical cities in the country. Unbelievable.

DaREEKKU 11 years ago

How quickly people are to accuse "the other" of destroying what ultimately is a piece of art. Who cares what group/other/side that the person is on; he destroyed an art piece and should be punished accordingly, period. Quit making this an ideological/political/homosexual agenda/right-wing conspiracy/leftist conspiracy situation.

Eddie Muñoz 11 years ago

Jerry Falwell reached up from hell and knocked it over.

That's my theory.

Eddie Muñoz 11 years ago

It's so damn hot... milk was a bad choice.

Paul Decelles 11 years ago

The guy was just a total jerk and maybe we ought to focus on an appropriate punishment. I know...force him pretend to be a piece of artwork (sort of a living sculpture) every night for a month in Lawrence outside of a bar. Maybe he will get vandalized. eg

sourpuss 11 years ago

I don't think this had anything to do with "theophobes," "the left" or any other conspiratorial claptrap. I think this boy is being afforded far too much respect if you think he was actually THINKING about any philosophical discourse in his vandalism. Gee, 2 am? Probably drunk, wanted to wreck something. Perhaps the idea of a prayer booth cheesed him off, but he could have been at either end of the spectrum in terms of being very religious and being offended, or being a staunch secularist and being offended. Still, I'm not very convinced that there are mobs of violent, liberal secularists roaming the streets...

acg 11 years ago

I agree with MacHeath. Why do we automatically assume there was political or religious leanings behind it? Maybe some idiot kids knocked it over because they're idiot kids and that's what idiot kids do.

heysoos 11 years ago

Not even touching this one. I'd rather wait and find out who did it before I crucify anyone. But, no one has ever called me rational...

Flap Doodle 11 years ago

Now it's merely Vandals, just you wait until the Visigoths & Ostrogoths show up. That'll be the day.

countrygirl 11 years ago

Art left out on the sidewalks and downtown just don't seem to mix well. Perhaps consider placing outdoor art someplace with a few less bars? I think way too much is getting read into this. Drunk kid, something to tear up. If the sculpture hadn't been there, he would have found something else to destroy.

Oracle_of_Rhode 11 years ago

This is clearly the work of a Christian believer who was emulating Christ knocking over moneychangers' tables at temple, and enforcing Christ's dictum to pray only in closets.

JoRight 11 years ago

My money is on a drunk college student. . .but I like how this turns up some sort of hot debate. We should of had this one when that "little people sculpture" or whatever was getting vandalized every night. Maybe they were "little-people-phobes" trying to push their non-believing-in-little-peoples agenda on us.

Eddie Muñoz 11 years ago

"Now it's merely Vandals, just you wait until the Visigoths & Ostrogoths show up. That'll be the day."

Yes! Internet high-five

craigers 11 years ago

scenebooster (Anonymous) says:

"He was wearing a University of Texas hat and T-shirt"

All you need to know:

All you need to know? Please scenebooster provide links to support such claims!!! :) jk

craigers 11 years ago

I want everybody to know that the only reason this sculpture was knocked down is because of the rap and hip-hop crowd that goes to the Granada!!!!

EXks 11 years ago

Ok stop the conspiracy presses(!!) and some of you increase your meds!

This is the result of ONE nutcase and odds are the a**hole who vandalized this piece of public property was DRUNK, even more dangerous that he operated a vehicle under the influence.

Find him, prosecute him, jail him.....better yet, take him back to the scene of the crime and make him repair the damn thing!

craigers 11 years ago

scenebooster that's a pretty good picture. I couldn't get anything from the second link. Oh well. The picture reminds me of all the video links they have on here from Channel Six news. They always end with the newscasters having a painful look on their face.

beatrice 11 years ago

Wow, and Wow again. People actually supporting and encouraging vandalism to works of art because they don't like it! I guess in some people's world, only concrete and stores without windows will satisfy one's hunger for as little thought-provoking stimuli as possible in life -- for everyone.

The social-conservatives who want to dictate to others how they should live their lives are constantly whining about something -- this time it is about public art. I guess next week it will be about something as substantial as comic book movies or coffe shops. Boo hoo, boo hoo, we don't like it so nobody should have it. Boo hoo, boo hoo.

Conservatives, quit your constant whining and realize that you share the planet with others who don't see things they way you see them. It is one thing to not like a work of art, but something completely different to just hate it and want it destroyed.

I would say a prayer for you, but somebody knocked over the booth.

Ceallach 11 years ago

snap: if we wait a little longer the Franks will show up and we can have a picnic.

Kontum1972 11 years ago

jeez....good way to draw some attention, will this be on the Fox news net..sounds like an inside job!

good PR

yankeelady 11 years ago

This isn't the first piece of art to be vandalized and it probably won't be the last. Several of the Jayhawks on parade were pretty badly damaged as I recall. I do love the way that political motives are assumed. Talk about knee jerk reactions. Both sides have gotten quite intolerant lately. Time was in Lawrence when differences in opinion were accepted and discussed. Now we have both sides becoming more rigid and intolerant. Seems like they are becoming virtually identical. Especially if you eliminate certain key phrases it all sounds the same. The conservatives and liberals are starting to look a lot alike.

Wilbur_Nether 11 years ago

yankeelady wrote "Time was in Lawrence when differences in opinion were accepted and discussed."

I, too, miss the days of Sherrif Sam Lane, James Lane, and all the rest who sat down and talked things through.

Bubbles 11 years ago

I am surprised it took this long.

yankeelady 11 years ago

to Wilbur_Nether
not that far back. But it's nice to see some of us remember our history. Now if we could agree on a little more preservation----

acg 11 years ago

Since we're talking about art and how its subjective and all, let's discuss that pile of crap downtown that looks like a bunch of nailed together boards. I believe it's in front of the old city Hall at 11th & Mass. How much did we pay for this debacle because my hubby is a carpenter and he said he could've built that ugly thing for $100 worth of scrap lumber and old nails. It drives me crazy to drive past that teal colored sheet metal travesty by the parking garage, too. What crap!!

Wilbur_Nether 11 years ago

acg, I have always admired how thoughtfully and cogently you express yourself on these boards.

i_have_only_valid_opinions 11 years ago

Do you want to know what I think? No? Here it is anyways...

I think some college boys are bored now that school is out and all the drunk girls are home drinking in their own home towns this week. This dude got drunk, started missing his weekly 3 a.m. booty call, intended to drunk dial some girl, got to the booth and realized there was no phone in it and got frustrated. Took it out on the phoneless Prayer Booth.

That's what I think. No matter how you feel about a piece of art, you shouldn't touch what isn't yours. Alcohol and hormones. Alcohol and hormones.

concernedparent 11 years ago

Maybe we all need to go back to kindergarten and learn a lesson. If it isn't your's, don't touch it. Is it really that hard?

TheHeartlessBureaucrat 11 years ago

Mass Street gets a piece of work that is provocative across many levels and someone has to mess it up.

We just can't have NICE things, now can we?

Regardless of what it MEANS, I thought it was brilliant! That creation took a great deal of talent across disciplines.


Eddie Muñoz 11 years ago

"I think some college boys are bored now that school is out and all the drunk girls are home drinking in their own home towns this week. This dude got drunk, started missing his weekly 3 a.m. booty call, intended to drunk dial some girl, got to the booth and realized there was no phone in it and got frustrated. Took it out on the phoneless Prayer Booth."

The only flaw in this logic is that no one uses phone booths anymore - this drunk college boy would have just pulled out his cell phone to make a booty call.

wildcat86 11 years ago

logrithmic (Anonymous) says:

Ah, again the stupidity:.

Yes, the left is composed of theophobes, who, rather than vandalizing churches and their crosses or neo signs that blanket the city, would rather take their frustration out on the self-defined followers of the allmighty by attacking a work of art downtown. (If you're not laughing now, you should be).

So I suppose you would be laughing too if someone knocked something over that you had spent a bunch of money and time making? That's ridiculous!! I'd be pretty upset too if someone had done this to one of my pieces of artwork no matter what the subject of it was. I guess this just goes to show that Lawrence, KS really IS the second meanest city in the nation!

Eddie Muñoz 11 years ago

"I guess this just goes to show that Lawrence, KS really IS the second meanest city in the nation!"

Well, if you read the comments on these forums you'd definitely think so.

minko224 11 years ago

A simple explanation is he was stumbling down the street drunkenly searching for a place to vomit and urinate. Once he saw the booth thinking it was a portable toilet he proceeded to determine through the powers of deduction that this was no toilet but a work of art. Texans do not appreciate art and normally push and shout at it.

Wilbur_Nether 11 years ago

Earlier this morning on this thread, I mistyped the name of Douglas County Sherrif Sam Jones as "Sam Lane." My apologies to the former Sherrif, his family, and any Lane family members who might be upset as well.

minko224 11 years ago

I don't feel worked up hesterprynne. Who need a prayer booth why us sinners do. The fancier the booth the better the prayer gonna shoot up into the sky upside God's head.

minko224 11 years ago

Wilbur, any relation to Lois Lane? I always wanted relations with her.

Linda Endicott 11 years ago

I kinda miss the old rotary phones, either the princess ones or the wall or desk phones, that came in all those nifty colors.

Oh...yeah...vandalism is stupid...

Roadkill_Rob 11 years ago


I'm not sure how many places you've been, but Lawrence is quite tolerant compared to the rest of the midwest. If you're implying that we're intolerant of bigots, you might have a point there but most people in Larry are quite tolerant of innocent people.

Oh, my money is on a drunk frat boy as well w/ no agenda other than drunken stupidity.

Bubbles 11 years ago

This isn't the first time art has been ruined. Remember the 4 or was it 5 little people in front of Teller's.

Emily Hadley 11 years ago

I didn't know that was a sculpture. It creeped me out.

I don't like things to be cookie-cutter, but I liked it when little plates were added with the name of the artist, sometimes with the name of the piece. Obviously some sculptures are not meant to simply mount and label, such as Christopher Fennell's awesome wooden arch leading into South Park, but it is nice to know whose work it is and that it is called 'Hedgehog House'. Sometimes seeing the name of the piece and the artist made me give more thought to a sculpture I initially didn't like.

I have never known where to look for information on these works; it seems it shouldn't be so hard. The links in this article provide the first such info I have ever seen on the downtown sculptures.

Perhaps the vandal would have been more respectful if he had known that it was art and not a city structure.

Wilbur_Nether 11 years ago

I believe the most important point, in regards to this incident, is generally overlooked. Regardless of who the vandal was, this person committed a crime. The individual's religious and/or political inclinations are irrelevant. The individual's social organizations are irrelevant. Whether or not the art is "good" or "bad" or whether it looks like art or whether other art has been vandalized...all irrelevant.

blackwalnut 11 years ago

I don't "get" the sculpture - does God require one to be in a properly labeled place in order to pray? - but vandalism is vandalism and I hope this act is prosecuted and punished.

TheHeartlessBureaucrat 11 years ago're right. Those concepts are are most of the active discussions on this board.

No one said our comments had to be relevant. Relevance is a boundary that need only be followed by the person writing the article.

I think its been significantly demonstrated that relevance isn't a necessary ingredient for this forum.


Confrontation 11 years ago

I'm thinking that this guy was making a statement....about the wasteful spending in this city. Maybe he's a city employee who will be losing his job. Maybe he's pissed that local social services are getting their funds dropped. Maybe he's tired of the city wasting money on crappy art when there are so many other areas that need funding and deserve funding. Even if the city didn't pay for this junk art, they have wasted a ton of money on art. I'm not encouraging vandalism, but there are worse things that could have been damaged. Of course, I also believe that this was just a drunk loser who was pissed that some woman wasn't desperate enough to sleep with him.

TheHeartlessBureaucrat 11 years ago


THat's a great question! This is the nature of art. Sometimes the meaning or point is really obvious. Y'know...picture of a guy with his dog...statue of liberty...these are fairly representational. But sometimes an artistic piece leaves questions unanswered. That way, the impact lasts long after you actually experience it. You continue to wonder, "what the heck was THAT all about?"

To me, I found it comforting. In a time that it seems like a bad thing to be part of any of the major religions...if you're muslim, you're a terrorist...christian, you're a mindless warmongering drone...etc. it reflected the intimate and personal nature of faith. In the old days, pay phones were like an oasis of communication where you could go in an emergency. The blue also reminded me of those "Emergency Stations" on campus. With its lack of religious affiliation, I could imagine a line of folks, from many different backgrounds all waiting to say "Howdy" to the great "whoever" in the sky.

A brave little bit of art. If the thug that tore it up meant to destroy it, he/she just made it that much more intriguing.


lildos 11 years ago

I haven't read the whole thread because I do not have that much time in my hand.

It was one of three people: Drunk College Kid (I put money on that), and extremely liberal person ("open minded" not the best description), or a extreme religious person.

Why do people have to lump everybody together. "Oh the liberals did this!" "Oh, the church nuts did that!"

How about whoever did this is an idiot, regardless of his political/religious view (even though it may have been just a drunk kid). Putting a tag on this person is the same as saying that all Muslims are terrorists...

classclown 11 years ago

Maybe someone was trying to make a call and got bent because the phone wasn't working.

yourworstnightmare 11 years ago

Figures that the religiously-insane would immediately blame this on a "theophobe" or "liberal". The reason is because they could so easily imagine themselves doing the very thing to anything that might offend them.

Hey, god-heads, just because you would destroy something that offends you with doen't mean everybody would.

Ceallach 11 years ago

generalizations . . the bane of our existence

lildos 11 years ago

Greyhem, aside of the rosie-odonnell worshiping, you pretty much nailed who I am!

auturgy 11 years ago

Can I just say that reading these posts made my day! And, as a representative of the college-nation, I would like to say that it wasn't me! But I'd bet that it was one of my lovely generation, who, to be frank, for the most part wouldn't be offended by a prayer booth -- only if it got in our drunken way. Most of my generation doesn't even know liberal vs. conservative. You're giving us too much credit. But we do like our booze. (this of course coming from a very socially conscious, non-drinking 21 year old)

TheHeartlessBureaucrat 11 years ago

Baby eating. I prefer the term Childeterian.


RKLOG 11 years ago

To easy to feed the trolls on this one.

Nick Yoho 11 years ago

as an over the top secular theophobe, I liked that piece of art.

RKLOG 11 years ago

I wish that those old closed in phone booths would come back. How about a community art project that puts in an old 70s phone booth where you drop in 10 cents and you can have an actual conversation with Abe Bagota?

badger 11 years ago

scenebooster (Anonymous) says:

"He was wearing a University of Texas hat and T-shirt"

All you need to know:

I totally have an alibi.

Sure, I was in Kansas this weekend, but I was 'otherwise occupied' at 3am on Monday.

I can produce a witness, even.

Plus, I haven't gone completely native down here in Austin yet. Just a little.

Jillster 11 years ago

Forget any political agenda behind the vandalism. I suspect the drunk guy was pissed off that he wasn't finding a phone in the prayer booth like he expected, and he felt foolish when it finally sunk in that he was trying to make a collect call from a piece of art. Drunks don't like things that make them feel foolish (they do such a good job of it on their own, you know).

What's sad is that not only did we pay to have the art there, we will now spend more city dollars to investigate the case, prosecute the case (if there's an arrest), etc.

yourworstnightmare 11 years ago

I actually liked the piece, and I am sorry it was damaged. I found its commentary on the commodification of faith and religion to be poignant. Dial up god just as if making a phone call.

A god you can shake hands with, "someone who's there, someone who cares. Reach out, touch faith." (apologies to Depeche Mode).

as_I_live_and_breathe 11 years ago

Maybe it was that fisherman who fell in the water.

pelliott 11 years ago

I usually hold the person responsible for their acts, not their mother, not class. This time I think i will add that the atmosphere of hate generated by some in this town against others, against art, against tolerance, all they know is blame someone else, do nothing and acting irresponsible is funny. If they showed respect for anything but their own bad breath, then this wouldn't be haha it would be, shame. It seems the only thing they are tolerant of is acts of destruction against property, especially someones elses. That was a great looking piece. We had a visitor from Texas and we went to look at the pieces. She found it fascinating that such a small town could support something wonderful and accessible as the art on the corners. By smirking and being gleeful you help the police consider it a victimless crime. It is a crap crime. Oh it was a student or just a drunk, I am sick of that mattering. It was not his, it is theft. it is a shame.

Michael Capra 11 years ago

wow once again lawrence is stupid stupid stupid

Godot 11 years ago

The purpose of the art was to generate a visceral reaction. Who is in a position to judge this man's reaction as being bad? Isn't "I hate this" a valid reaction? If you create a piece of art that is designed to be challenging, then you'd best be prepared to accept what happens next.

Bone777 11 years ago

Lawrence has nothing to do with was Texas.

It's time for a little pay-back. Let's mess with Texas.

Tom McCune 11 years ago

Maybe "Tex" is a performance artist. Freedom of expression and all that....

RKLOG 11 years ago

Community art that got a community response. Now if we can only get that guy to rid us of that ugly cellphone tower on Vermont, everything will be peachy keen.

RKLOG 11 years ago

"In "Goodfellas" Robert DeNiro's character knocked over a phone booth and nobody got on his a++!"

Yeah but they bumped-off Tommy! He's gone and there ain't a thing we can do about it.

lildos 11 years ago

cheeseburger (Anonymous) says:

lildos- No one is begging you to stay - if you are indeed an America-hater, then get the h*ll out! That'll make it a better place for those of us who appreciate the opportunity to live here!

Are you that idiotic that you did not realize that was a joke?????

radarlove 11 years ago

Wow, don't you people have to work when you're at work?

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 11 years ago

Now that this blog has lynched someone of virtually every race creed and color for this atrocity against the art world it will be interesting to see if our diligent Lawrence PD can actually figure out who the real villain actually is. Unfortunately, thanks to this blog, every one in the state is a suspect. In fact, I'm personally working on my alibi, just in case.

yourworstnightmare 11 years ago

craigers doesn't work. He is nourished and sustained by god.

Flap Doodle 11 years ago

"Marion (Marion Lynn) says:

Oh, well, yeah but who's gonna miss that loudmouthed little D+++?

I'da shot him myself a coupla times for the crap that he pulled!



Reprinted under "Fair Use"

Nick Danger is in the house!

RKLOG 11 years ago

"Nick Danger is in the house!" Well then come in out of the cornstarch and dry your mukluks by the fire!

hanni213 11 years ago

These comments are a work of art in themselves...I have been laughing uncontrollably while reading them. They are priceless.....Thanks to all of you, you made my day.

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