Martinsburg artist cited in toilet incident

David Heatwole faces a maximum fine of $500 for violating the city ordinance titled 'Littering and Deposit of Garbage, Rubbish, Junk, Etc.'

April 19, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • David F. Heatwole stands next to "Spring Fling," a mural that will be unveiled April 21 in downtown Martinsburg, W.Va. Heatwole faces a maximum fine of $500 for placing a toilet on a pedestal in Martinsburg's city square on Wednesday.
Herald-Mail file photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — City police on Thursday cited a Martinsburg artist who placed a toilet on the pedestal in the city square on Wednesday as a publicity stunt to advocate for more public art in the community.

David Heatwole, 42, of Martinsburg, faces a maximum fine of $500 for violating the city ordinance titled “Littering and Deposit of Garbage, Rubbish, Junk, Etc,” according to city code.

Heatwole is scheduled to appear in municipal court on May 2, according to the citation.

Heatwole put the toilet on the pedestal with the lid up. On it, he wrote “Put art in Martinsburg.” Three helium-filled purple balloons were tied to the flush handle and a fake bill of sale for a “crappy work of art” was dangling from the toilet bowl.

The display lasted for about 20 minutes before three city workers removed it Wednesday morning.

Heatwole said Thursday he would have returned to retrieve the toilet had someone called him to pick it up.


“From what I’ve been able to tell, there were only a few people that weren’t able to smile about it,” Heatwole said of the reaction he received in the community. “Sorry for them.”

Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin was visibly upset by the incident Wednesday afternoon at City Hall and did not return messages requesting comment.

The pedestal was built last year for a sculpture of Martinsburg’s founder, Revolutionary War Major Gen. Adam Stephen, but city officials since have tabled the project, citing cost and other concerns.

Until it was removed Wednesday, the toilet turned the heads of motorists passing through the intersection of Queen and King streets.

Heatwole had said the stunt was part of his effort to show the community and city leaders “how the arts can make Martinsburg a greater place to live, work and visit.” He also wanted to make sure his contemporary art proposal for the pedestal is “heard.”

Heatwole is advocating for installation of a contemporary art sculpture on the pedestal rather than a historical monument. 

Other options, including a clock or nothing at all, have been suggested, Martinsburg Mayor George Karos said Wednesday.

Heatwole is scheduled to unveil his mural “Spring Fling” on Saturday at the corner of Queen and Race streets.

The unveiling is part of the second downtown Paint the Town Purple week of awareness events for Berkeley County Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society.

The 8-foot-by-20-foot mural is to be covered in water-soluble paper and revealed as water balloons thrown at it dissolve the covering.

Prizes will be awarded for balloons that break targets drawn on the paper. Proceeds from the unveiling will benefit Timmy’s Fund, an organization that supports families that are facing childhood cancer.

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