Man seen on camera torching grackle statue at Austin City Hall


AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, Austin fire investigators announced they now know who the man seen in the video is. They just need to find him.

The Austin Fire Department released video of a suspect setting fire to a statue of a grackle that stood outside Austin City Hall.

“I just kind of felt sick to my stomach and immediately got really sad,” said Melinda MacLean who works downtown. She said she parks at City Hall every morning.

“It hadn’t been there that long, and I just enjoyed seeing it every day,” she told KXAN. “It just seemed very Austin. I felt really bad for the artist. It just seemed beyond pointless, kind of cruel you know.”

The grackle was a piece of artwork called Ganador, which means winner in Spanish.

According to the artist’s website, she originally created Ganador through Austin’s TEMPO program. The city told us TEMPO “allows artists to explore a range of themes suitable for outdoor environments and provides the opportunity for innovative, thought-provoking artwork that effects the way people experience their environment.”

It’s part of the city’s Art in Public Places (AIPP) program.

The artwork was moved to City Hall a couple of months ago to now be part of the People’s Gallery, also part of AIPP.

“The People’s Gallery is a way for our local artists in the Austin community to exhibit their artwork in City Hall,” explained Veronica Briceno, Director of Economic Development for the City of Austin. “Overall, we think that arts are inherent to the economic vitality of our community.”

Briceno said the city picked 140 pieces of artwork out of 1,200 submissions. Ganador was one of them.

“Art brings people joy. It brings people a way to reflect on our community as it’s seen through art,” she said. “[Ganador] did catch some folks off guard, but it does bring a smile to your face, something that’s kind of joyous and different in the City Hall plaza.”

All that’s left of the grackle now is its skeleton and charred feet.

“A very sad way to start a Monday morning for myself,” Briceno said.

MacLean said, “I walk right up those stairs every morning, so yeah, I’ll be looking at that for a while I guess. Hopefully something else can go up to replace it.”

Briceno explained the AIPP programs are funded through Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue.

“We take this work very seriously,” she said about the fire. “It’s very important to us, and we know that this is very important to the artist. We want our local artists to feel like they can thrive in our community. Their artwork is important to us. It’s important to our city.”

The suspect, believed to be a white man between the ages of 55 and 70 years old, is seen in the video wearing a grey/white long-sleeved top and dark pants. He has a full head of white hair.

While crews were able to extinguish the fire, the grackle statue was completely destroyed — damages are estimated to be $5,000.

If you have any information, you’re asked to call AFD’s Arson Investigations at (512) 974-0240.

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