A whimsical bronze statue was swiped from the McKinley Library lobby in broad daylight Wednesday, leaving some to worry that the much-loved sculpture of an adventurous boy balancing on a paper airplane will end up as scrap metal on a junk heap.
The statue, titled “Journeys of the Imagination,” was taken from the table to which it was bolted sometime between 1:50 and 2:15 p.m. Wednesday. A red cart – capable of carrying the heavy statue – has gone missing from the Clunie Clubhouse, which houses the library.
The bolts that once held the statue in place were found where the cart is normally kept, said library supervisor Bridget Laws.
The lobby where the statue was located leads to the McKinley Park library and other facilities at the 81-year-old clubhouse, including an auditorium where church singers and the rock group Green Day have performed.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
In 2011, the municipally owned clubhouse was threatened by city budget shortfalls. Friends of East Sacramento stepped in to lease and manage the center.
“We very much want that particular piece back,” said Lisa Schmidt, co-founder of Friends of East Sacramento. “It’s sentimental and it reflects the library and the reason why the community fought so hard to keep it open.”
The sculpture was purchased for $6,995 in 2008, according to Schmidt.
“I’m sure it’s more valuable as a piece of art than scrap, where I’m afraid it’s going to end up,” she said.
The statue, according to a post on the Clunie Clubhouse Facebook page, was purchased with funds from the East Sac Remodeled Home Tour. The depiction of a little boy with arms outstretched while riding on a paper airplane was said to charm adults and children.
At the base of the bronze sculpture is a child reading a book.
“Little kids come up and touch it, and you hear parents say, ‘Oh look at the little boy reading a book,’ ” Schmidt said. “It’s sort of become a symbol for that building.”
Richard Burnsed, a Sacramento resident, was at the library the day the theft occurred, but he said he didn’t witness it. “There’s a lot of things (where) you can just walk in and grab and leave,” he said. “Get a clipboard and an orange vest and you can do almost anything.”
According to library supervisor Laws, all that was left on the lobby table was a patch of dust. The lobby has no security cameras, but since the theft, Schmidt said installing some is “100 percent something we’re going to do.”
“The lobby was always been a place that I really didn’t ever worry too much about because it is so used,” she said.
On Facebook, individuals reacted with sadness: “What’s wrong with people!” stated one post. Another person asked how the statue could be stolen during the day when others were around.
The Clunie Clubhouse Facebook manager replied that the time of the theft makes the library “hopeful that someone who was going into or leaving the library might have seen the thieves and just thought that they were working on the table and/or authorized to remove the statute.”
“That is why we are asking for help to get the word out. Someone probably saw this happen and did not realize it was a crime in progress.”
The statue is a creation of the Gary Lee Price Studios in Springville, Utah. The sculpture comes with either a boy or girl as the focal point.
According to Isaiah Price, the studio’s business manager, the retail value of the sculpture is now $8,600.
“Sometimes people will take a piece to a scrap yard and get less than half that for the cost of the bronze,” Isaiah Price said.
The statue, which is part of a limited edition collection of 250, is one of the studio’s most successful pieces, Isaiah Price said. There are about 150 of them displayed worldwide in schools and libraries. Isaiah Price, the son of the artist, said the statue depicts him when he was a child, hoping to become a pilot one day.
“I was always doing paper airplanes,” he said. “That was kind of how I dressed, glasses and a superhero cape.”
McKinley Park was the site of another high-profile theft last year when a large metal trellis disappeared from its celebrated rose garden. The trellis was recovered after it turned up in a photo on the thief’s Facebook page.
Richard Hengeveld admitted to stealing the trellis and transporting it to his niece’s wedding in the Natomas area. He pleaded no contest to the theft and was sentenced to one year in county jail.