The community likes its public art and anyone who thinks about defacing, removing or stealing it better be ready for consequences.

That’s what a 23-year-old Mankato woman found out after being criminally charged recently with destroying a downtown Mankato art piece in May. The detachment of a baby from a sculpture of a mother cradling the infant resulted in a first-degree damage to property charge, which is a felony.

Since the CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour began nine years ago, organizers have been well aware of the risks of putting artwork in public places. That’s why the works are insured. Over the years, pieces of the artwork have been snapped off, tipped over, portions removed, and even an entire sculpture lifted off its pedestal and hidden a short distance away.

All of these senseless acts may not be personal crimes, but the residents of Mankato and North Mankato take them personally. The outdoor sculptures are a source of pride to the community. They should be accessible, not surrounded by fencing.

Not only do public dollars bring the sculptures here, but various sponsors support the program and in-kind contributions help make the annual tour possible. A lot of effort goes into the sculpture tour, and ruining the pieces is insulting to the community as a whole.

Those of us who live here welcome the new batch of more than two dozen art pieces that arrive every spring and like seeing visitors stop to look at and touch them. Not only does the community buy the People’s Choice winner each year, but businesses and private parties have purchased sculptures to ensure they stay here, such as the popular Great Dane piece donated to the Kiwanis Recreation Area’s dog park.

The growing beautification of the core areas of Mankato and North Mankato is noticeable — efforts include the sculptures, as well as murals, hanging flower baskets and planters, and brightly colored banners on main thoroughfares. For the most part, people are respectful of all of the additions, but there will always be exceptions.

Any potential vandals need to realize that residents who see trouble won’t hesitate to contact authorities, and when there aren’t witnesses around, surveillance cameras will still catch criminals in action.

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