Stolen Sculpture Returned To WSU

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

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UPDATE: Thursday, August 30, 2012

A prized sculpture from a Wichita State University collection is back home.

A bust of American poet Robert Frost has returned to the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University.

The sculpture was stolen 25 years ago from the WSU campus and then retrieved in Lamar, Missouri, where it’s been collecting dust.

If only we could hear from the poet himself about his whereabouts the past 25 years. What a creative piece of poetry that would be.

What we do know is the sculpture, purchased by George and Virginia Ablah and donated to the Ulrich Museum in 1983, was placed in front of Wilner Auditorium. It sat there four years before the thief made off with it.

"The sculpture looks like it's in good condition."

And folks here are amazed with it being found after a quarter of a century. Jim Rhatigan was dean of students at the time.

"The return of this bust by Walker Hancock represents the return of the only piece of sculpture that we've ever had stolen in the university's history among our large and very prestigious collection," says retired Dean of Students Jim Rhatigan, PhD.

WSU police say it all started with a tip from a woman in June of something stolen from the campus was in Missouri. The Missouri Highway Patrol got involved and tracked it to the home of a 44-year-old man in Lamar.

"It's been moved from location to location a few times,” says WSU Police Detective Jeff Rider. “But it was recovered in the garage."

Rader says the alleged thief has no connection to the university. It is believed, he says, the man was just passing through and it was a crime of opportunity.

Theresa Veazey of the Ulrich Museum of Art says, "Finding this sculpture in a garage is a very different environment than having it on display either outside or in a museum."

And because of that, she says the museum will do a thorough examination of the bust’s condition and then get its value appraised.

"This sculpture's been missing from the campus for 25 years, so WSU is going to take its time deciding where to place it next.

UPDATE: Thursday, August 30, 2012

A historic sculpture stolen twenty-five years ago has been returned to the Wichita State University campus.

A bronze bust of American poet Robert Frost disappeared in 1987 from an outdoor collection. The Walker Hancock sculpture was valued at $25,000.

The sculpture was recovered earlier this week in southwestern Missouri. Officers arrested Mitchel R. Potter, 44, from Lamar for receiving stolen property.

The bust returned to WSU Thursday morning.

KAKE's Chris Frank is talking with museum directors and authorities about the sculpture's return. Watch for his report on KAKE News at 5.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A valuable statue stolen in 1987 from Wichita State University has been recovered in southwestern Missouri, and one man is under arrest.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol says the bronze bust of American poet Robert Frost by famed sculptor Walker Hancock is currently valued at about $25,000. News reports from 1987 indicate the statue was one of three stolen early that year from an outdoor collection on the campus of the Kansas school.

The Highway Patrol says troopers and officers of the Lamar Police Department recovered the Frost bronze Wednesday. A 44-year-old Lamar man was arrested and jailed on suspicion of receiving stolen property.

Wichita State campus police contacted Missouri authorities after receiving information about the sculpture's possible location in June.

No further details of the recovery were released Wednesday.

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