Theft and vandalism worry St. Joseph Sculpture Walk | Life

Allied Arts Council Executive Director Teresa Fankhauser has always been concerned about the safety of the art displayed on the St. Joseph Sculpture Walk.

Over the past two years, this sense of caution has grown after two acts of vandalism and theft.

“We have to do a better job of looking at the sculptures that we have, that we select and say to ourselves, ‘Okay, can we secure this? Is it strong enough to prevent someone from stealing or vandalizing it? ” she said.

On February 4, most of the “Espiritu Libre” statue was stolen outside the Missouri theater. Almost a year earlier, on March 3, “The Peaceful Ruler,” a horse statue, was discovered leaning on its base near the St. Joseph Convention and Visitors Bureau. Both pieces were previous entries in the Sculpture Walk.

It bothers Fankhauser that anyone tries to damage or steal anything on the promenade, which is meant to add color and character to the town.

“Most people like it. The majority of people aren’t out to steal a sculpture, either for personal enjoyment or because they think they’re going to be able to profit from it at the metallurgy yard, that they won’t be.” she declared.

A piece featuring a dancer, “Espiritu Libre” was a permanent piece on the way to the St. Joseph Sculpture Walk. Upon purchasing it, artist Harold Linke expressed his delight that it was part of the showcase.

“’Espiritu Libre’ became a resident of St. Joseph, Missouri. She dances her free-spirited dance in front of their beautiful theater in Missouri. So proud to be part of their community,” he wrote.

Now in its eighth year, the St. Joseph Sculpture Walk remains popular with participating artists and the public.

“We have more carvers than ever before… (That) tells me we’re getting a good reputation, which is nice,” Fankhauser said in 2021.

The St. Joseph Sculpture Walk was created to bring people downtown to experience a variety of outdoor artwork presented by artists from across the country. For its 2021-22 march, the program has expanded its selections to 21 new pieces, in addition to permanent sculptures, like “Espiritu Libre” and “The Peaceful Ruler”.

Thefts and vandalism not only damage the reputation of the council, but also the community, some said.

“I think the more we appreciate our city and the things we create there, the less likely you are to have theft and a lack of pride in your community,” said Kathy Reno, marketing coordinator for the Allied Arts Council of St. Joseph, in a previous interview.

While the Allied Arts Council and the City of St. Joseph discuss options for securing the sculptures, they admit there is no one-size-fits-all solution. They also don’t want to remove the walk because of some issues.

“Most people, they like it, they enjoy it. I mean, just the outpouring we got from the (Facebook) post on Saturday, when I posted about this… The community came together,” Fankhauser said.

If you have any information related to the crime, contact the St. Joseph Police Department at 816-271-4777.

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