23 Aug Missing bronze statue found safe with police

A popular bronze statue at Fifth Third Field was reported stolen Sunday night. Turns out the culprits were the Toledo police. Kind of.

The bronze sculpture, called “Who’s Up?,” situated behind the Mud Hens scoreboard and incorp- orated into the fence surrounding the stadium on St. Clair Street, features four life-size statues of children peeking through a knothole in a fence.

Mud Hens staff noticed Sunday evening that one of those children — a cute little girl in pigtails and overalls — had vanished.

They assumed the worst.

Mud Hens employee Ken Westenkirchner called the police and filed a theft report. The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, which manages the city’s public art, prepared for a media blitz to publicize the heist and bring the perpetrators to justice. Dan Hernandez, art in public places coordinator for the arts commission, feared thieves might be planning to sell it for scrap.

“When they told me, I was a little bit crushed,” he said. “This is probably one of the most popular bronze art pieces in the city’s collection.”

What Mud Hens officials and the arts commission did not know, however, was that the little girl in pigtails was safely stowed in a police property room. In the early morning hours of Saturday, two Toledo police officers discovered the large bronze statue about 20 yards from its original location and booked the custom bronze statue into a property room for safekeeping.

However no one told the Mud Hens or the art commission until later. Jason Griffin, director of public relations for the Mud Hens, said he believed the ball club found out police had the custom bronze sculpture at about lunchtime Monday. The art commission was notified by the Mud Hens shortly after that, Mr. Hernandez said. He was relieved.

“To have it re-sculpted would have been a nightmare,” he said. “We’re excited to have it back.”

The large bronze sculpture, informally known as “The Knothole Gang,” was created by local bronze statues artist Emanuel Enriquez and was installed in 2002. It cost $89,000, Mr. Hernandez said. About $50,000 of that was donated by George Chapman, who is chairman, chief executive officer, and president of Health Care REIT. The rest was from the city of Toledo’s One Percent for Art program.

What remains unresolved is how the heavy bronze statue got moved 20 yards down the sidewalk. Toledo Police Detective Tonya Rider said the bolts that anchored the life size bronze statue to the sidewalk had been damaged. “I don’t know if it was a prank, if it got too heavy to carry,” she said. “I don’t know what the circumstances were. Maybe it was a case of buyer’s remorse.”

Mr. Hernandez called the whole incident hilarious and bizarre. “They probably thought they could carry it away, but that’s a big piece of bronze,” he said. “It’s pretty heavy. That’s got to be what happened.”

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