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Artist seeks compensation for damage to precariously-displayed sculptures knocked over by student

Posted at 3:30 PM, May 06, 2019

KIRTLAND, Ohio — An artist who had three sculptures damaged when a student accidentally backed into them at a community college art show in March says the school has yet to fairly compensate her for her destroyed and damaged artwork.

Linda Dempsey, a Lakewood-based artist and dancer, posted surveillance video to Facebook on Saturday provided by Lakeland Community College campus police showing a student backing into one of her sculptures during an event in March. The sculptures were on display in the center of a room in the school’s art gallery, without any kind of barrier. The first sculpture’s fall caused a domino effect that sent two of her sculptures to the ground.

“Looking at the video, the aftermath is obviously that was a bad placement choice without any rope or barrier or protection in the middle of the room,” Dempsey said in a phone interview with News 5.

Dempsey does not consider the student who backed into the sculptures at fault; she said that the school claimed responsibility for the damaged artwork.

As part of the exhibition process, Dempsey said she was required to give the school the insurance value of the sculptures, which she did, before the sculptures went on display.

Dempsey said after contacting the school’s Risk Management department several times, she was asked her for a number that “would make her happy,” and she provided them an invoice: 50 percent of the insurance value of the two sculptures that were partially damaged, the full value of the sculpture that was destroyed, and the cost of the two pedestals, which amounted to $1,900.

Days later, the school got back to her, and offered her $1,500. Dempsey rejected that offer.

After several weeks of back-and-forth communications, Dempsey eventually spoke to the school’s Vice President, Andrea Ausperk. Dempsey said Ausperk said she would work to get the issue resolved.

Dempsey said that Ausperk then went through her Facebook page and saw that Dempsey was selling similar sculptures to the public for $300 each. Ausperk then offered $1,200, on the basis that she was offering $100 more than other sculptures were being sold for, for the three damaged sculptures.

Since then, Dempsey said she has consulted with those “in the legal world,” and is prepared to take this matter to small claims court.

Meanwhile, Lakeland officials told Dempsey that they would have an independent appraiser look at the damaged artwork and give an appraisal. Dempsey asked, given the subjective nature of artwork, to have three appraisers evaluate the sculptures.

News 5 spoke to Lakeland’s Gallery Director, Mary Urbas, who said she could not comment, and to speak to the college’s in-house legal counsel.

“I would say that the incident that led to it was an unfortunate accident," said Lakeland's General Counsel, Mike Fisher.

Fisher said there were some misunderstandings in the communications between the school and Dempsey.

Fisher said they disagreed with Dempsey on the value of the artwork, and hired an appraiser to value the sculptures.

“As a public institution we have an obligation to use due diligence in establishing the fair market value of artwork before reimbursing for damages," Fisher said.

The appraiser valued the damaged artwork at $1,700, and Fisher said that a check for that amount was mailed to Dempsey on Monday. Fisher added that he did speak to Dempsey about the reimbursement, but she did not seem satisfied with the amount offered.