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Published: Monday, 6/29/2009

Roll out the barrels

WHEN the summer road construction season signals its arrival with orange and white barrels popping up everywhere, a little art might be a welcome diversion for motorists stuck at a standstill.

Welcome, that is, if it weren't illegal.

A creative college kid in North Carolina didn't quite think that last part through when he constructed a 10-foot "barrel monster" out of three stolen traffic markers.

While his quirky barrel sculpture - a grotesque figure that appears to be thumbing a ride - has made him a local celebrity, Joseph Carnevale is considered a vandal by police. They took apart his creation and charged the young man with larceny and destruction of property.

But the funny thing is, even the people he stole from liked what he did with the chopped-up barrels. The president of the construction company thought that the 21-year-old history major's work was "pretty neat" and invited him to recreate the piece outside company headquarters.

Not only that but the student is being inundated with hundreds of supporters on his Web site and on Facebook who loved the hulking barrel figure. One fan wrote that the world could do with more whimsy and another urged police to "calm down and have a doughnut."

Because the construction company isn't interested in pursuing criminal charges against this renegade artist, local authorities might consider an alternative - allowing him to produce more barrel sculptures as a public service.

Think about it. For once, motorists approaching miles of backed-up traffic might have something to smile about, to make them slow down a bit, to catch the eye of the beholder.

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