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Columbia Missourian

MU has no financial plan for Tiger Spot

May 11, 2007 | 1:45 a.m. CDT

The Spot has been sitting on Lowry Mall, untouched, since July.

Tiger Spot, the mosaic located in front of Ellis Library, is now missing more than 20 percent of its tiles and has cost $290,000 in repairs.

Last July, MU announced it would have a plan in place to remove Tiger Spot from Lowry Mall to an inside location elsewhere on campus. But, as the school year comes to an end, the mosaic still sits outside the northern entrance of Ellis Library.

Or about 80 percent of it does.


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Tom Edwards, a consultant hired by MU in 2004 to repair and restore the Spot, said that the delay in relocating the mosaic has resulted in even more deterioration. Edwards, who is no longer under contract with the university, said that the mosaic had lost up to two square feet of tile when he examined it earlier this spring.

MU still wants to move the artwork, said MU spokesman Christian Basi, but no discussion of how, to what location and when such a move could happen has taken place since last summer.

“We haven’t spent any money on Tiger Spot this year,” Basi wrote in an April e-mail. “However, I have nothing new to report to you on the progress of it.”

The troubled project, conceived and installed by local artist Paul Jackson in October 2001, has cost $290,000 to date, mostly provided by private donations. MU’s decision to move the Spot to an indoor location was based on an assessment made by New York-based tile expert Stephen Miotto, who reported to MU in January 2003 that the mosaic was not built to withstand the Missouri weather or the foot traffic it endured. MU said at the time that it was not in a position to “incur any significant expense in maintenance” and that it would follow Miotto’s recommendation to preserve the tiles until a decision about the Spot’s fate could be made.

Edwards, who was paid about $17,000 to inspect the Spot and perform minor repairs between July 2004 and July 2006, said most of the damage to the mosaic was sustained during the late summer and fall of 2005. Both Edwards and Jackson have said in the past that the weather is to blame for the damage. Now, however, Edwards says the problem was caused when MU workers used a jackhammer to install a barrier around the spot in 2005.

“It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Edwards, who was serving as the head consultant on the project at the time. “No one asked me. No one consulted me.”

Edwards said that vibrations caused by the jackhammer warped the panels under the Spot’s surface, damaging the tiles. He said that, while he and Jackson have been criticized for faulty construction, someone at MU should be held liable for that damage. “I don’t want to point the finger at the school,” he said. “But the finger’s being pointed at me, at least indirectly.”

Phil Shocklee, MU director of campus facilities, did not return phone calls seeking comment on the Spot’s status.

The Missouri Student Association has called for the mosaic’s removal. Former MSA president John Andersen called the Spot a “failed project” and said its appearance was “disgraceful.”

“It needs to removed as soon as possible,” he said. “This situation has gone on entirely too long.”

Since its unveiling, Tiger Spot has been in an almost constant state of disrepair. Jackson planned the mosaic as an icon of university pride, but it has instead been repeatedly criticized as a costly eyesore. Jackson declined to comment on the status of the mosaic, saying he does not want to further strain his relationship with university officials.

Edwards said he was told to stop working on Tiger Spot last summer, despite his protests that the mosaic could still be saved. Even now, as the deterioration continues, Edwards said he wants to resume his restorative work on the Spot. He said he believes the project has been “written off” by MU officials and that moving it could cost MU more money than it would to complete the repairs.

“Man, I love this project,” he said. “I have given my sweat and blood to it. Tears, too.”