Residents of the Oshara Village subdivision, located up the road from the Santa Fe Community College, were shocked to find a sculpture in the Oshara Plaza vandalized last week in what some believe could be a racially or culturally motivated act.

The sculpture, created by artist Martin Helldorfer, is a 7-foot-tall wind chime made of burnished steel. A large bell fashioned from the end of an old gas cylinder hangs suspended in the center of a circular rim over a waist-high rusted steel base. On windy days, the bell rings softly.

Until late last week, the base was adorned with the words of a prayer translated by Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark in 1887. Helldorfer tells SFR that the sculpture and the prayer are intended as an invitation to slow down, offering passersby a moment of peaceful reflection as they go about their busy lives. He himself does not have Native heritage, but he says he found the prayer online and felt that it fit the meaning of the piece perfectly.

On Thursday, a resident of the subdivision discovered that the words of the prayer had been chiseled from the sculpture and the letters lay scattered across the plaza.

Words from a Lakota Sioux prayer were removed from the sculpture and scattered across Oshara Village Plaza | Courtesy of Sara Miller
Words from a Lakota Sioux prayer were removed from the sculpture and scattered across Oshara Village Plaza | Courtesy of Sara Miller

Oshara Village resident and gallery owner responsible for the creation of the sculpture garden, Sara Miller, filed a police report Friday and says the community might install video cameras to prevent future vandalism.

Miller believes that the damage could have been an intentionally targeted act.

"The circumstances were just very suspect. Out of ten sculptures on the plaza, this was the only one that was vandalized, and it was the only one that has any religious or spiritual significance. The Native American prayer was the only thing damaged right during Indian Market weekend, and we just hope that it wasn't intentionally targeted against Native Americans," she says.

Helldorfer is more inclined to think that it was the work of adolescent trouble makers. He says he did not previously consider the possibility that the prayer could have been intentionally removed by someone of Native American heritage in protest of its use in the plaza.

"I try to work in a way that is very respectful of Native American culture, but I guess it's possible," he says when SFR poses the question.

The sculpture is currently under repair, and Miller says the incident will not deter Oshara Village residents from making their plaza a hub of art and activity. The outdoor artworks were created by members of the Santa Fe Community College Sculpture Union and installed in May. This fall the popular Pantry Restaurant plans to open a second location on the plaza.

"The reason we created this is for people to realize that there is a lot of art and culture on the Southside as well," Miller says. "Art in Santa Fe is not just downtown. Here we are, right next to the Community College with all of their incredible art programs and the Institute of American Indian Arts; there's more of an arts district here than people realize."