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Theft disrobes Arkansas park's trees; artist vows to replace colorful acrylic afghans

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Photographs by Special to the Democrat-Gazette

The afghans that wrapped these trees in Eureka Springs’ North Main Music Park were the work of local artist Gina Gallina, who saw they were missing Aug. 31.

All the trees are nude in North Main Music Park.

Well, they still have leaves, but they are no longer wearing acrylic afghans.

The crocheted artwork that adorned six trees in the Eureka Springs park has disappeared, according to a police report.

Theft or vandalism is suspected but there are no leads, Police Chief Thomas Achord said.

The artwork had covered about 6 feet of each of the tree trunks for almost a year.

"I don't know what happened," said Gina Gallina of Eureka Springs. "It's a mystery."

Gallina crocheted the acrylic-yarn wraps to go around trees at Basin Park in downtown Eureka Springs during the city's May Festival of the Arts in 2016. They remained in Basin Park for a couple of months.

With the city's permission, in November, after heat and tick season subsided, Gallina used the wraps to decorate six trees in the more heavily wooded music park on North Main Street.

Gallina said she planned to take the wraps down when they began to deteriorate, but they still looked vibrant in the shaded park.

"The only complaint I've had is the color fades in the sun," she said.

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Gallina said she had a hidden seam in each wrap so they could be removed without causing any damage, but the vandals apparently didn't know about that.

"They ripped them down," she said. "There were only two pieces left, and they were shredded."

In a city that embraces artists, it's unusual to have artwork stolen or destroyed, Gallina said.

"Tourists, locals, they all loved the crocheted trees," she said.

Gallina said she noticed the artwork was gone Aug. 31.

Kim Stryker, assistant to Mayor Robert "Butch" Berry, reported the theft to police.

"It feels like such a violation," Stryker said. "It's our little village."

The city had bought the artwork from Gallina for $300 each, bringing the total value of the missing items to $1,800, according to the Sept. 1 police report.

Berni Kurz, county agent and a trained horticulturalist with the Washington County Extension Service, said the yarn sweaters might cause problems if left in place for several years.

"It would be a safe place for detrimental insects and fungi to take up residence," he said. "Bark, through evolution, is a protector from insects, fungi or bacterial infections. This is not bark, but it's a hiding place. ... The longer bark is wet the more opportunities insects, bacteria and fungi have to invade and cause issues."

But for one year or two, it should be no problem, said Kurz, who admired a photo of Gallina's tree art.

"Anything that can be done to help communicate the beauty and science of trees is probably a good thing," said David Stahle, distinguished professor of geosciences and a tree-ring expert at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

"I'm not a plant pathologist, but I do like art."

Gallina said it took her about a month to make the tree art.

She plans to get some stitching helpers and remake the wraps this winter.

"We might be crocheting eyeballs for all the trees -- 'We're watching you,'" Gallina said.

Crochet artist Gina Gallina of Eureka Springs said whoever took down her afghans from trees in a Eureka Springs park didn’t realize each had a hidden ...

Metro on 09/13/2017

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