MONTROSE, S.D. (KELO) — Wayne Porter has spent decades hand-sculpting art pieces to display in Porter Sculpture Garden near Montrose, South Dakota. Now, months of hard work have been destroyed and parts of the park vandalized.
Earlier this week when Porter returned to the park ahead of the May 15 opening he discovered vandalism on several sculptures. Along the base of the bull statue there was spray painted messages stating, “Satan is defeated” and “Jesus Christ Lives” among other things. The “guardian” statues that surround the bull had been knocked over and the heads stolen. One head that remained had damage to the front.
Porter hopes that the thieves will return the guardian heads because he won’t have time to remake them. He’s currently offering a $1,000 reward and working with the McCook County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the incident.
“I have to move on. I’ve got to get other things done so I’m not gonna make the heads again,” Porter said Friday. “However, I have a brother in New York who’s retired. He’s gonna make the heads again.”
Porter opened the park more than 20 years ago after finding popularity with his sculptures along Main Street in St. Lawrence, SD. Raised on a farm in Hand County, Porter learned the blacksmith trade through his father. After high school, he went on to attend South Dakota State University to study political science and history before making his way to St. Lawrence where he began raising sheep.
“When the sheep were in grass, I’d go in and make a sculpture here and there then get back to the sheep. The sculptures added up over a long period of years then people started to come in and want to pay to see the art,” Porter explained.
Porter then decided to open Porter Sculpture Park near Montrose. Now, the park is filled with more than 50 sculptures all handcrafted by him.
“Every hammer blow, every piece of metal here was hit by me with a hammer,” Porter said.
With some of that art vandalized, Porter is trying to keep his thoughts positive.
“I tell you what, first of all, Jesus never said in any gospel, ‘go out and vandalize and steal.’ We gotta remember most people are good people,” Porter said.
For Porter, the vandalism is about more than what it means for his work.
“Every time somebody vandalizes something, they take a piece from everyone, you know,” Porter said.
Porter is grateful for the outpouring of support over social media as well as those offering to help clean up the vandalism. One person reached out and is offering to stop by the park this weekend with a power washer to remove the graffiti from the bull statue while Porter uses a blow torch on the bull.
“I’d like to say to the community who’s been so supportive– Thank you. Thank you.”
The graffiti isn’t stopping visitors from wanting to tour the sculptures, either. While KELOLAND News was at the park, visitors from Arkansas stopped by. Even though the park doesn’t open until Monday, Porter happily let the travelling family in and answered all their questions about his work.
“When people come in, they’re smiling, they’re happy, the families are laughing,” Porter said. “The more happy other people are, the happier I am… I want to be happy so I make people happy.”
Porter Sculpture Park officially opens May 15 at 7 a.m.