The giant red coffee cup sculpture atop Coffee By Design’s flagship Portland cafe was damaged earlier this month — and owners of the Diamond Street roastery suspect someone climbed their roof and swung from the kinetic sculpture, which balances like a weather vane.
“It has a major tilt to it,” said co-owner Mary Allen Lindemann, who has hired a crew to remove the now-static piece that no longer rotates in the wind. It will come down in the next couple of days.
Her partner, Alan Spear, noticed the aluminum sculpture was akimbo earlier this month. They believe the damage occurred between Dec. 5 and Dec 15. They did not report it to the police, but tally the damage in the thousands.
“Someone thought they were having a really good time and thought it was funny,” said Lindemann. “To deface a piece of artwork is really hurtful. It’s not replaceable. You really hurt a group of us.”
Installed just over two years ago, the sculpture rested perfectly on a stainless steel pin positioned on a sculptural tower in what Lindemann calls “engineering brilliance.” Made by South Portland sculptor Jac Ouellette, the 1,000-pound sculpture took a year to design and is valued at $60,000. The 18-foot-high coffee cup resting on an arm balanced by coffee beans can be seen from Interstate 295.
“We are so disappointed more than anything else,” said Lindemann, who plans to repair the piece. She and Spear consider it an investment in the Portland art scene and growing East Bayside community.
But funneling unexpected resources into the busted work will stall plans to remodel their India Street cafe.
“It’s a nightmare,” she said. “We saved up for 22 years.”
Ouellette, the artist, is devastated by the news.
“I was shocked. It was just so heartbreaking,” she said. “It’s just really sad. Mary Allen and Alan didn’t do this for their business, they did it for the community.”
It took several people to help Ouellette balance the piece perfectly. The incident makes her question people’s attitude toward art.
“We don’t have enough respect for art, now more than ever,” she said. “Hopefully this will open up a conversation about its value in society.”
“It was clearly not someone who understands the value of art. The cup, what it meant to all of us … it brings happiness to the area and shows what Maine artists can do,” said Lindemann.