By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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This was how Karen Hackenberg, the Port Townsend artist who built “Water Shed,” learned of the vandalism.
A Peninsula Daily News headline Dec. 21 informed her that at least 35 works in Webster's Woods, the art park surrounding the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, had been damaged or ruined.
Hackenberg is one of several Port Townsend-area artists with work installed in the forest and meadow.
Since 2000, artists from across the North Olympic Peninsula, Seattle, Bellingham, British Columbia and beyond have contributed to this marriage of nature and human creativity.
Earlier this month, Hackenberg, together with a few other Port Townsend sculptors, drove over to see the park.
“I felt worse when I saw the condition of other people's work,” she said.
Some pieces had been smashed beyond rescue. But others, including her “Water Shed” and Port Angeles artist Dani LaBlond's “Paul Bunyan's Chair,” had been merely knocked over.
Hackenberg plans on coming back to Webster's Woods to right “Water Shed” and take part in the cleanup efforts toward reopening the park by next month.
“It was depressing walking around,” Hackenberg admitted.
Artists want to provoke thought and add beauty to the world; why vandals would try to destroy that is a mystery to her.
At the same time, the plight of Webster's Woods has brought about something positive.
“It's brought a few of us [artists], who were busy with our lives, together,” Hackenberg said.
“My group of pals” from Port Townsend “have a pretty good attitude,” she said.
LaBlond, likewise a longtime member of the art community here, has installed six works in Webster's Woods over the years.
One of them, the stone-and-cedar “Doorkeeper,” was destroyed by the December vandals. But most of her other pieces — a driftwood dog, cedar faces — are suspended in the trees and untouched.
But LaBlond's 10-foot-high “Paul Bunyan's Chair,” seated on a ridge overlooking Port Angeles Harbor, was shoved over.
The chair is a sturdy thing, she said. It's made of cedar logs with the bark still on, the seat is a thick chunk of wood and the whole thing weighs probably 500 pounds. Righting the chair is a matter of putting it back in place and leveling the ground beneath, LaBlond said.
The artist is also a teacher who's worked with young people for years.
Port Angeles police continue to investigate the vandalism. It is not known who — or how many — committed it.
When LaBlond learned of the vandalism, she was furious.
But that changed.
“A lot of the time, young people, young boys, have anger issues in their lives. They want to attack something beautiful that was made by hand,” LaBlond said, to do damage that seems more dramatic than destruction of some big, impersonal building.
“I was angry. But I wondered what was going on in their life . . . I feel more sorry, in a lot of ways, for people who have that kind of anger.
“Why not use that energy to be a creator of something, rather than a destroyer? They've got something major going on.”
LaBlond and Hackenberg share the hope of renewing Webster's Woods in time for the spring.
Creating art for the park, Hackenberg said, has been one of the best experiences of her career.
“The synergy with the other artists was inspiring,” she said, “and invigorating.
“It's a very special place.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at email@example.com.