(Steven Lane/The Columbian)Buy this photo
Wendy Rose is headless again. But she’ll soon sport a new noggin that looks just like her original one.
The iconic sculpture honoring World War II Kaiser Shipyard workers was beheaded by vandals on May 11 and then re-beheaded again on Thursday morning — this time by a Vancouver Public Schools maintenance worker under orders from the city of Vancouver.
Wednesday afternoon David Richards’ welding students from Fort Vancouver High School attached a temporary head they had created to replace the head that had been removed by vandals. Students didn’t receive permission from the school district to do so.
Earlier this week, the students made the metal head which looks like Bender, a robot character from the animated television series “Futurama.”
“The students came up with the Futurama idea,” Richards said. “It’s nothing disrespectful or rude. I’m really sorry that anybody got offended.”
A city official called the school district Thursday morning and asked them to remove the unauthorized head. Wendy Rose resides along the Waterfront Renaissance Trail, which is city property.
“It didn’t honor the intention, the spirit of the original artwork,” Barbara Ayers, communications manager for the city, said. “While we really appreciate the contribution of our local welding students, public art requires that no one person or group can change the appearance of a piece of artwork without public review.”
In a statement released through the school district’s communications office, Steven Webb, the superintendent, said he hadn’t spoken with Richards or his welding students.
“I can only speculate that their intent was a light-hearted attempt to poke fun at the situation, and that they did not mean to offend anyone,” Webb said.
Webb said the district had not received calls complaining about the situation, but he said that when city officials told the district to remove the temporary head, “I directed our maintenance staff to do so as soon as possible.”
“If invited to do so by the city of Vancouver, the Fort Vancouver High School welding program would be more than willing to design and construct a suitable permanent replacement that honors the intent of the original project,” Webb said.
But that won’t be necessary. The city already has asked Women Who Weld, the local artisans who created the Wendy Rose sculpture, to make a replacement head that will look just like the original: a red-and-white polka dot scarf made of glass welded between metal.
When Wendy has her head, she stands 10 feet tall and weighs about 1,000 pounds.
“We have a donor who stepped forward to help us,” Ayers from the city said. “We want to replace Wendy to her full glory. Don’t want to change what she stands for. She’s our connection back to history.”
Jennifer Corio, a member of Women Who Weld, first saw the student-created head in The Columbian Thursday morning.
“I got a chuckle out of it. I don’t think they meant any harm or disrespect,” Corio said. “Because I know the real head is coming, it didn’t bother me as a temporary head. I think it says Vancouver has a sense of humor. Wendy Rose is a beloved piece. A lot of people connect to that piece of art. This just adds to the story.”
Corio, who owns Cobalt Designworks, posted a photo of the temporary head and The Columbian article on the Cobalt Designworks Facebook page and also told the story behind the sculpture’s different components.
“I can see where the city’s coming from too, by taking it down,” Corio said. “Anybody who thinks a lot of the sculpture might be offended by the temporary one. Maybe the students could capitalize on the opportunity. Maybe it’s a piece of public art in its own right.”
Wendy Rose’s new bonnet will be made by welder Sharon Agnor, who made the original bonnet, Corio said.
Anyone with information on the theft is asked to call the Vancouver Police tip line, 360-487-7399. Callers can be anonymous. Tips can be made through Crime Stoppers of Oregon by texting 823HELP + your tip to 274637 (CRIMES), or by calling the tip line at 503-823-4357.
John and Michele Rudi, owners of Thompson Metal Fab, originally donated $45,000 for the creation of Wendy Rose. On Monday, Rudi offered a reward for the return of Wendy’s original head.