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October 16, 2013

Giant elk sculpture reported stolen

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Missing: An elk, about 10 feet tall, weighing between 800 and 1,000 pounds.

The rusted metal sculpture, which was part of an art exhibition, has been stolen from the lawn of the Tryon Inn, Jane Sapinsky, executive director of Cherry Valley Artworks, said Tuesday.

“In Cherry Valley, you don’t expect things like this to happen,” she said. “It’s been very shocking to all of us.”

Wendy Klemperer, an artist who works with salvaged metals, created the figure of a calling elk, according to Sapinsky who said she reported the theft to state police at Richfield Springs on Monday.

The elk was part of a “sculpture trail” exhibition of 24 pieces displayed in Cherry Valley from June through September 2012, Sapinsky said. Cherry Valley Artworks presents a sculpture show about every other year, she said.

Klemperer brought the piece to the area in parts and welded the sculpture together on-site at the inn, Sapinsky said, and a crane from a local business helped erect the work.

“It was a beautiful, beautiful piece,” Sapinsky said.” Everybody loved it — it was probably the most popular work on the sculpture trail.”

Klemperer offered to leave the piece after the show ended if the inn owner agreed, Sapinsky said. She found out about the theft Saturday and held a “slim hope” that perhaps the artist had arranged for it to be picked up.

But the elk’s absence was bad news to the artist, who said she reacted with shock and disbelief.

Klemperer, who works in Brooklyn and Keene, N.H., said the stolen elk sculpture measures about 10-by-10-by-4 feet and weighs about 800 to 1,000 pounds. She told troopers the estimated value was about $20,000.

The date of the theft isn’t known but may have been about a week ago, Sapinksy said. The theft must have been well-planned because of the size and weight of the work, she said.

A message left for the Troop C public information officer before 3 p.m. Tuesday wasn’t returned by 6 p.m. The Tryon Inn and Backdoor Bar is located at 124 Main St., Cherry Valley.

Sapinsky said she heard that two men loaded the elk sculpture onto a flatbed truck and drove away with it.

“It had been taken in broad daylight,” Sapinsky said. A woman who reportedly saw the theft is trying to be identified and contacted, she said, and a man who saw the truck drive away wasn’t close enough to catch details or a description.

Klemperer said she didn’t know about Cherry Valley until invited to participate in the local show by an artist friend. Her artwork is displayed at sites across the country, she said by telephone Tuesday, and the theft gives her pause about participating in exhibits.

The situation is unfortunate for everyone involved, including the organizing group, Klemperer said. Arts groups, which present such exhibits to the public in good faith, cannot monitor outdoor displays all the time, she said, and generally, participation in such a show is at great expense to an artist.

The theft also was surprising because she considered the size and weight of the sculpture a measure of security, Klemperer said. Previously, one of her smaller pieces was stolen for scrap metal, she said, and more recently a larger work on display was intentionally knocked over.

But a larger work hasn’t been stolen, Klemperer said, wondering aloud if the work was stolen to cash in on the scrap metal value.

“I don’t know what is going to happen,” Klemperer said. “It’s very upsetting.”

Debbi Moon, an owner of the Tryon Inn, said she had been surprised to hear that the elk was stolen.

“We thought the artist had picked it up,” Moon said. The sculpture trail had attracted tourists to Cherry Valley, she said.

The elk had been a favorite for photo opportunities, she said, and birds made a nest inside it. Moon said her son, who is getting married this weekend, had planned to include photographs beside the elk as part of the wedding’s hunting theme.

Signs and other items have been stolen from the lawn, she said, expressing hope that the elk is recovered.

“We loved it,” Moon said.