SOUTH HAVEN — Shortly after the Fourth of July holiday, decorated bicycles began popping up in front of storefronts and businesses throughout South Haven.
Artists and hobbyists like Jakki Fox have spent months decorating them as part of “Art Bikes,” a display that celebrates South Haven’s recent designation as one of the state’s first Pure Michigan Trail Towns.
Organized through the South Haven Center for the Arts, “Art Bikes,” consists of 27 decorated bicycles that can be seen throughout South Haven in front of shops and other businesses that agreed to sponsor them.
But less than a week after the bikes went on display, vandalism began.
Fox’s whimsical creation, located in front of Captain Nemo’s restaurant and ice cream shop, downtown, has been vandalized twice, while down the street, vandals tried to ruin her daughter’s bicycle.
Fox’s creation, “Captain Nemo’s Tide Pool Peddler,” features a large, red octopus, riding a bike while holding a large ice cream cone, surrounded by coral and sea creatures. The painted sea creatures and coral are made from Styrofoam pool noodles and spray foam, while Fox papier-machéd the octopus’ head.
She said she spent 50 hours creating the display. “Everything is completely handmade,” she said.
Fox put the bike in front of Captain Nemo’s about a week ago, while other artists did the same with theirs. By the next day, however, someone had smashed in the top of the octopus’s head, while a similar act of vandalism occurred sometime late Monday evening.
Even though Fox has been able to repair the papier-maché head, she’s upset.
“This is a fundraiser for the art center,” she said, explaining that photos of the bikes are currently being shown on the art center’s Facebook page through Sept. 15 as part of a silent auction, whose proceeds will go toward funding the art center’s programs.
“This,” she said pointing to the bike that she volunteered to decorate, “is a gesture of kindness and someone has to destroy it.”
Fox said she filed a complaint with local police when the second act occurred, while a business owner, next to Captain Nemo’s, said he would take a look at images on his video surveillance camera to see if images would reveal anyone damaging the bike.
In the meantime, the art center will be putting up signs near the bicycles letting people know that the display is part of a community art project and silent auction fundraiser.
“Hopefully that will help,” said Kerry Hagy, art center director. “I’m really sorry that happened,” Hagy went on to say, referring to Fox’s decorated bike. “She put a lot of work into that.”
Although the bicycles are chained to posts and secured in other ways, some business owners who want to protect the bikes from being vandalized may want to take them inside at night, Hagy suggested.