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Sculpture thefts prompt more security

Chainsaw sculptor Adrian Robbins moves a sculpture on wheels back toward the building where it is stored at night. Robbins and two other artists who show their work at Clinton
Chainsaw sculptor Adrian Robbins moves a sculpture on wheels back toward the building where it is stored at night. Robbins and two other artists who show their work at Clinton's Island Art lost a number of large pieces to thieves last week.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

A second round of thefts at an outdoor sculpture gallery in Clinton last week left three artists about $12,000 short on inventory and with the feeling that trust might be a thing of the past on South Whidbey.

Sometime during the early-morning hours of July 1, thieves removed five cedar and redwood sculptures from the open-air display area at Island Art in downtown Clinton. According to Pat McVay, a chainsaw artist who lost two pieces to the thieves, the sculptures stolen weighed hundreds of pounds and could not be moved without a truck and at least two people.

Stolen was an 8-foot-high Steve Backus sculpture weighing over 300 pounds, a 6-foot-high salmon sculpture by Seattle's Jessie Groeschen, a large wall hanging created by Adrian Robbins, and two eagle sculptures belonging to McVay.

The theft was the second this year at the business. Thieves stole a marble sculpture belonging to McVay and a few smaller wood sculptures during the spring. The marble piece was later returned.

McVay said he and his fellow artists at the small cooperative took steps to secure their art. He said they had begun to move small pieces into a locked building at night, and had bolted wall hangings to an exterior wall. During last week's theft, the thieves pulled those bolts -- along with two hangings -- out of the wall.

Larger pieces, like the one by Backus, remained outdoors at night, presumably theft-proof due to their size and weight.

"That was the wrong assumption, obviously," McVay said.

None of the pieces stolen were insured, so the artists have no way to recoup their value. As McVay did this spring, the artists are offering a reward for the return of the pieces, a reward that comes with no questions asked. Adrian Robbins said the reward will probably be a custom sculpture created by all the artists.

In the future, McVay said, even the large sculptures at Island Art will be better secured. He said the artists also plan to install security lights.

The crime was reported to the Island County Sheriff's Office, but at present the agency has no leads in the case.

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