‘I Wanna Hug You’ sculpture repaired, back in Founders Park


Cheyenne Kumbhare stands in front of “I Wanna Hug You,” a public art sculpture that was restored Monday at Johnson City’s Founders Park after being toppled Oct. 5.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Just in time for the arrival of dozens of Christmas trees, a fiberglass public art sculpture is back in Johnson City’s Founders Park six weeks after being toppled by an unknown cause.

“I Wanna Hug You” is rooted in Baltimore, Md. artist Dave Eassa’s reflection about what is truly important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was uprooted, ripped from its base and lying on the nearby grass the morning of Oct. 5.

The City of Johnson City’s Cheyenne Kumbhare said Eassa was finally able to make it down to Johnson City Monday and repair the piece, which had been carefully taken to a safe location.

“Our whole public art committee was very disappointed and saddened by that and we’re just glad to have it back at this point,” Kumbhare said as the three amorphous, colorful figures looked over a beautiful fall scene from their pedestal on a bank near the park’s east end.

The scene included a sea of Fraser firs placed around the park early this week in preparation for “Candyland Christmas.”

The return of “I Wanna Hug You” made Kumbhare happy for an artwork that is difficult not to anthropomorphize.

‘I Wanna Hug You’ lies toppled from its base on October 5.

“It’s gonna be able to observe Candyland Christmas, we’ve got 100, over 150 Christmas trees in King Commons and in Founders Park, so I guess I Wanna Hug You will be observing many happy people passing by and seeing all the lights,” Kumbhare said.

Those lights will start getting tested soon, but the big reveal will be at an official tree lighting Nov. 27. The trees will be on display through Jan. 2, 2022. This year, trees will also be on display throughout King Commons Park.

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