Wild Horse Bonnie Del Turco
This wild horse statue, entitled "Celestial" and decorated by local artist Bonnie Del Turco, was vandalized earlier this week by a juvenile in its location at Copper Sky. The tail was reattached by the artist, but city officials are unsure whether the repair will last. Photo by Victor Moreno

One of the horses in the City Manager’s first public art initiative, “Maricopa Wild Horses,” was vandalized by a juvenile earlier this week.

The tail was broken off the colorful sculpture titled “Celestial” at the Copper Sky Recreation Complex. It is the work of local artist Bonnie Del Turco and sponsored by the Ray Nieves Family.

According to Nathan Ullyot, the city’s director of community services, the artwork already has been “repaired and repainted as much as possible, but we’re not sure if the fix will be sustainable.”

The cost could be significant, Ullyot said, noting “if that’s the case, we might have to replace the entire project which could cost up to $5,000.”

According to Sgt. Hal Koozer, public information officer for Maricopa Police Department, the teenager allegedly responsible for damaging the sculpture is charged with criminal damage, but no physical arrest was made.

Ullyot said the city will pursue the charges to send a message that vandalism will not be tolerated. To prevent further incidents, the city plans to install stanchions connected by chains around the horse “to make it clear it is not a toy or physical art.”

The barriers will be low to the ground and will not impede the view of the horse, which stands just over four feet tall and seven feet long from nose to tail.

“The horses have been well received by the public with many posing near the horses and taking pictures,” Ullyot said. “The city wants to encourage viewers of the horses to enjoy them from an appropriate distance so that the art is not damaged in any way.  As attractive as it might be to straddle the horses or set a child on top of one, damage can occur.

“While the city feels confident that damage can be repaired with the effort of the dedicated and talented artists, the best thing to do is prevent the damage in the first place,” he continued. “To help clarify that the art is not meant to be interactive, the city will be installing barriers to discourage viewers from accidentally damaging the art.”

Del Turco posted photos on Facebook showing the damage and her repair work.

Ullyot asked residents of the city to keep watch over the horses and address any interactions that could lead to damage. That may prevent incidents of horseplay from resulting in damage.

Ten of the statues were decorated by local artists as part of a city-wide public art project. Eight of the 10 have been placed to date, with statues located at Copper Sky, the Maricopa Police Department substation, Maricopa Library and Cultural Center, Maricopa Elementary School, the Courtny Tyler State Farm office, Pacana Park, the new Pinal County Courts and Administration building and City Hall. The final two will be installed later this summer.