Quirky art wall stripped bare at request of UC Berkeley

Alley west of Euclid. Photo: Colleen Neff
The found-object ‘art wall’ in an alley west of Euclid before it was stripped bare. Photo: Colleen Neff

A striking Berkeley chain-link fence covered in found objects, including teddy bears and bras, was recently stripped bare, two days after a story about the quirky ‘art wall’ was published on Berkeleyside.

One person who complained about the fence referred to it as “creepy,” according to Christine Shaff, facilities and real-estate communications director at UC Berkeley, who said a Cal grounds manager asked the creator of the wall to strip it after a formal work order was submitted “at least a week before” Berkeleyside published its June 2 story.

The chain-link fence separates a UC parking garage from the alley running from Ridge Street to Hearst Avenue just west of Euclid Avenue.

Alley west of Euclid Avenue. Photo: Colleen Neff
The chain-link fence west of Euclid after it was stripped bare, in a photo taken on June 6, 2015. Photo: Colleen Neff

Shaff said the university received complaints about the fence from staff who work at the nearby journalism school. They had talked to others and it was generally agreed the fence “was not what they wanted to see,” she said.


One person said they thought the fence, with its eclectic mix of inflatable toys, underwear and flags, was “creepy.”

A Cal grounds manager went to the alley and asked its creator, Tad Dellinger III, to disassemble it, Shaff said. Dellinger did so, with care, preserving the objects under several large tarps.

Tad Dellinger III. Photo: Tom Dalzell
Tad Dellinger III: creator of the ‘art wall’ chain-link fence. He began work on it in 2013. Photo: Tom Dalzell

Dellinger started work on what he called his art wall in 2013. He scavenged from trash cans and dumpsters along fraternity row, fashioning found objects into the art wall with cut-up coat hangers as fasteners.

The ultimate outsider artist, Dellinger is a faithful guardian of the alley. He patrols the alley at night before going to sleep, making sure that no store back doors or windows are unlocked.

Dellinger said he had never dabbled in art before, and doesn’t think that he will try to recreate the art wall, even with all the objects that he removed saved under tarps. He has a few of the larger objects fastened to a cast-iron fence on the east side of the alley, but said he doesn’t plan to extend that installation south along the fence, although is not owned by the university.

Alley west of Euclid Avenue. Photo: Colleen Neff
A few of the larger objects from the dissembled chain-link fence art wall have been attached to a nearby cast-iron fence on the east side of the alley west of Euclid Avenue. Photo: Colleen Neff

Dellinger does not display any bitterness about the university’s order to remove his art wall, and has no interest in becoming a cause celèbre or ‘art martyr.’ He says that his religious faith has helped him survive life on the streets, and that the same faith helped him cope with the order to dismantle two years of work. Dellinger regularly attends services at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Bancroft Avenue, and finds consolation in the Episcopalian faith.

While it is true that art is not eternal, Tad Dellinger’s art wall died young, just as it was gaining fame. None of the found objects were salacious, profane, or obscene; it was a joyful and artistic display of the detritus of student life. It is preserved in photographs and the memories of those who were fortunate enough to see it before its fame and demise.

Additional reporting by Tracey Taylor.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.

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