DPS searches for person who vandalized ceramic turtle outside South Campus childcare center

The turtle was installed during the 2000-2001 school year.

Department of Public Safety officials are looking for the person who tipped over a large ceramic turtle outside of the Early Education and Childcare Center on South Campus this weekend.

James Hill, a detective with DPS, said the department is still reviewing security tapes for the weekend. They have a few leads regarding who overturned the turtle, breaking off a couple of its ceramic legs in the process, he said. Whether the situation is handled by the city or the university will depend on at how much the damage is assessed.

Holley Benjamin, director of the childcare center, said the turtle — dubbed “Mort” — is not repairable. “I have a box on my desk with the pieces,” she said. “We’re trying to figure out whether we can do a new ceramic project with the shell or whether we want to do something new.”

Mort was installed in during the 2000-2001 school year, she said, as part of a year-long collaboration with the nonprofit Jewonio School. The project, which also included the installation of the mosaic mural at the entrance of the childcare center, was funded with a New York Foundation of the Arts grant. 

“It’s a huge piece of history,” she said.

When entering the building, she said, children would regularly climb on top of Mort, who got his name from the actual pet turtle that lives in the center. The children immediately noticed on Monday morning that Mort was overturned and in pieces.

After filing a report with DPS, Benjamin said she and a co-worker were able to flip the approximately 200-pound turtle. She said she’s unsure what they will do to replace the turtle, but hopes that they can use pieces of its shell in a new project.

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