Seven-Year-Old Boy Gets Trapped in Public Sculpture on Island Resort

The incident delayed the sculpture's public unveiling.

Jacob Andersen trapped in John Clement's Caracol.
Photo: Kelly Andersen.
Jacob Andersen trapped in John Clement's <em>Caracol</em>.<br />Photo: Kelly Andersen.

Jacob Andersen trapped in John Clement’s Caracol.
Photo: Kelly Andersen.

Playtime took an unfortunate turn this weekend on the island of Hilton Head, South Carolina, when a seven-year-old boy, Jacob Anderson, got his leg trapped in a bright red sculpture.

Anderson had been having dinner at a restaurant with his family Saturday, August 1, when he ran across the street to play at Shelter Cove Community Park. He was climbing the work, a steel structure called Caracol, by artist John Clement, when he fell, wedging his leg between two of the sculpture’s spirals.

“In twenty-one years in the fire service, I never had an extrication from an art piece,” Hilton Head’s fire department captain, Dave Bell, told WJCL. “So that was a first.”

Jacob Andersen trapped in John Clement's <em>Caracol</em>.<br />Photo: Kelly Andersen.

Jacob Andersen trapped in John Clement’s Caracol.
Photo: Kelly Andersen.

The fire department was prepared to saw the sculpture apart, but an ambulance, which had been dispatched to the scene, came bearing surgical lubricant. After a generous application, the boy’s leg slid right out, uninjured.

The artwork was set to be officially unveiled on August 4, as one the city’s first official public artworks. Following the incident, the opening was delayed.

“We can laugh about it now,” Kelly Anderson, the boy’s mother, told the Charlotte Observer, “but at the time, it was quite scary.”

In a phone conversation  with artnet News, Clement expressed his surprise over the incident, claiming it was the first time anything like this had happened with his work in 20 years of installing public sculpture. “I’m glad that they were able to get him out!”

Jacob Andersen trapped in John Clement's <em>Caracol</em>.<br />Photo: Kelly Andersen.

Jacob Andersen trapped in John Clement’s Caracol.
Photo: Kelly Andersen.

The scene is a throwback to one of our favorite stories of all time: the American exchange student that got stuck in a 32-ton marble vagina sculpture while studying in Germany. In both cases, it was up to the fire department to free them from the art, but it’s certainly a whole lot easier to make fun of a grown man looking for a funny photo op than a child at play.

“The wonderful thing about large scale public art is that you can get a chance to interact with it . . . but it is not a playground structure,” Clement noted. “You have to use some discretion when interacting with it.”

Caracol has just been donated to the city by the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. It was previously on view for two-and-a-half years at Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head, before being moved to its current location.

John Clement, <em>Caracol</em>. Photo: the <em>Charlotte Observer</em>.

John Clement, Caracol. Photo: the Charlotte Observer.

Clement admits the city’s fledgling public art initiative is experiencing some “growing pains,” but remains confident that Hilton Head “is very much behind the program of placing art around the city.”

The artnet Price Database has records of two auction sales of Clement’s sculptures, similar tubular steel works that sold for $25,000 and $15,000 in 2005 and 2008.

While the Caracol‘s fate is uncertain, the boy’s mother, thinks that similar accidents could occur in the future. “Kids will keep climbing on it,” she told WJCL. “It screams climb on me! It’s red, it’s round, it’s inviting, it’s at a park!”

UPDATE: Jean Heyduck, vice president for marketing and communications for the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, which organized the installation, told artnet News via e-mail that “We’re working with the artist to find a way for him to modify the piece.” The Foundation has donated six other works to Hilton Head, five of which have been publicly-installed, including one at the nearby airport in Beaufort County.


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