City’s catfish damaged in Jackson vandalism

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

[5/9/03]The fiberglass catfish sponsored by the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau and part of an array in downtown Jackson has been vandalized, but the artist responsible for the design said it can be repaired.

Earlier this year, the Mississippi Commission for International Cultural Exchange said it was selling the right to decorate the nearly 7-foot-long catfish to businesses and organizations for $2,000 each to help raise money for the Glories of Baroque Dresden that will open in the spring of 2004. The fish will be displayed on streets and in front of buildings around Jackson for the next year. After the exhibition closes, sponsors will have the opportunity to buy their fish for $500 or allow them to be sold at auction at a gala planned for later. The funds raised go to the commission to help fund the exhibition.

However, last weekend vandals struck and damaged several of the fish, including Vicksburg’s, which has murals of the city’s skyline on its sides.

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Lenore Barkley, executive director of the VCVB, said commission officials told her the damage to the Vicksburg fish is a scratch down one side.

“It just got placed, and it looked wonderful,” Barkley said.

Vicksburg’s fish is at North State and Pearl streets in Jackson.

“I haven’t seen (the damage), but I can fix it,” said Nancy Mitchell, an art teacher at Warren Central High School.

She said the basic fiberglass fish was covered with three coats of oil-based paints before she painted in the scenes showing downtown Vicksburg in the 1860s as a catfish would see it from the Mississippi River.

After some of her students completed the sky and background, the entire work was covered with six layers of varnish.

“It is called A Fish Eye View,'” Mitchell said.

Without seeing just how large the damaged area is, Mitchell said she could not guess how much work will be involved in repairs.

“It’s regrettable some people feel they have the right to steal or damage something that does not belong to them,” said Jack Kyle, chairman of the commission.

He said several of the fish sculptures were taken but they have been recovered and added that those damaged will be repaired.

Barkley said the VCVB planned to buy the fish at the end of the display period and put it on display in Vicksburg.

Several of the other fish displayed around Jackson were also damaged.

Kyle also said about half of the fish have been decorated and installed. Others are still in the process of being decorated.

He said the sculptures can be seen at the commission’s Web site: People can also vote on their favorites.