Another golden link in folly of the fence

June 15, 2008|By John Woestendiek | John Woestendiek,Sun reporter

Like any good story (and any good artwork) this spring's saga of the golden fence grabbed attention, triggered emotions and sparked discussion for days.

Then, as quickly as the spray-painted chain link fence went up around Mount Vernon Place, as part of an art exhibit, it was taken down - slightly before schedule and amid acts of vandalism. The park was reopened, the fence was gone and the controversy fizzled away. But where was the closure?

To provide some, here's what subsequently happened to the golden fence.

On Saturday, March 29, what remained of the fence - about half of it had been taken down the previous Thursday after vandals removed some bolts - was disassembled by the artist, Maryland Institute College of Art student Lee Freeman, and stacked in tidy piles.

Later that day, it was loaded on a truck and taken back to where it came from - Long Fence Co. in Crofton. There, salesman Scott Lawson made arrangements for it to be returned to its original silver color.

"When I told my bosses I was renting the fence for someone to paint gold, they said you better get it back silver again," he said. While some of it was repainted, other panels remained gold, joining the silver, galvanized chain link fence panels stacked on the lot.

Some gold fence, Lawson said, was sent to the Towsontown Spring Festival, though a Towson Chamber of Commerce official said the chamber didn't order it. While she didn't remember seeing any gold fence during the festival, she said it's possible it was used by one of the individual vendors, of whom there were 200.

Some of it, still gold, joined shipments to construction sites - "depending on where it was in the stack," Lawson said. Little, if any, gold fence remains now at the fence company's Crofton facility, he added.

With the cost of repainting the fence, the company made little profit from the rental, but Lawson said the controversy did bring the company some publicity: "You can't really put a price on that, all the exposure."

Lawson said there were no complaints about the gold fence at the construction sites where some of it ended up. "We ship it mostly to contractors for construction companies; most of them probably wouldn't have a problem with that."

Chain-link fence is made of steel, and turns from black to silver when it goes through a galvanizing process to prevent rust. Freeman, the MICA student responsible for putting the fence around all four quadrants of the historic park - an attempt, he said, to have residents better appreciate and see the park in a new way - kept several panels of the gold fence as souvenirs. Freeman spent days spray painting the fence gold, and it was assembled March 17, the first piece in a nine-work exhibition by MICA students called "Beyond the Compass, Beyond the Square." The exhibition ran through May and was held in conjunction with the Walters Art Museum's exhibit "Maps: Finding Our Place in the World."

The fence met with some harsh criticism from dog walkers, parkgoers and a City Council member who objected to blocking access to the park, a National Historic Landmark District. In a compromise, Freeman removed one panel of fence from each of the park's four squares, allowing the public to get in and out. But the criticism and vandalism continued.

In addition to putting up critical signs and festooning the fence with paper cups, vandals removed bolts that secured the panels, making some sections of it unstable.

Freeman and a team of MICA students, faculty and staff took down half of the fence after that, and removed the rest of Freeman's work, titled "Framing Mount Vernon Place," as scheduled on the opening Saturday of the exhibit.

Freeman said he's keeping "a few" panels of the gold fence, some of which he has stored at school, some in a parking lot near where he lives. He said he is considering several possibilities for it - including donating it for use in a dog park. "I think that would be nice," said Freeman, "and a little ironic."

john.woestendiek@baltsun.com

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