Editor's note: This story was originally published April 3, 1987
Wichita State University police don't know whether to blame vandals or art thieves for carting off two pieces of outdoor sculpture that have disappeared from the campus over the last four days. Police Chief Milt Myers said Thursday that a $5,000 bronze bust of poet Robert Frost was missing on Tuesday after spending 1/2 years on a pedestal outside Wilner Auditorium.
Then on Thursday, Myers said, police learned that one part of a four- piece sculpture called Family Group" had disappeared from Ahlberg Hall. That collection, which was bolted onto a wall when the structure was built, is worth about $35,000.
Myers said there were no pry marks at either location, and he didn't know whether the thefts were related. It's conceivable that the thieves could have wiggled the Frost bust loose from its base, he said. But he said he didn't know how the other bronze sculpture could have been pulled from the side of a building.
"Somebody pulling on the head of Robert Frost - that you could understand," said James Rhatigan, WSU's vice president for student affairs. But the Family?' It would take a lot to remove that." Gary Hood, curator of the university's Ulrich Museum of Art, said the Frost bust was the work of Massachusetts artist Walker Hancock. Family Group, which depicts a man, his wife and their children, is the creation of American artist Milton Hebald, who now lives in Italy.
Hood said the 36 other outdoor sculptures at WSU were all secure on Thursday. But he said there was little the university could do to protect its outdoor sculptures.
If somebody wants to (steal them), they'll find a way to do it," he said. What can we do, build fences around everything?"
Last July, a $12,500 bust of French Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste Renoir was stolen from a pedestal outside the Liberal Arts and Sciences building. That bust was later left at the loading dock of a local television station.
"It's very unusual for anyone to bother our sculptures," Rhatigan said. When they do, it's upsetting to me. Two pieces in one short span of time, that's unheard of. That worries me."