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Artist offers reward in sculpture theft

Trail's 'Inquisitive Eagle' vanished last week

POSTED: September 5, 2012 10:30 p.m.
For the Forsyth County News/

A local artist has offered a reward in the theft of a 400-pound bronze eagle from the Big Creek Greenway.

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A local sculptor is offering a $500 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of whoever took the large eagle statue he designed for a south Forsyth recreational area.

Gregory Johnson, a county resident whose artwork is displayed internationally, said he was disappointed when he learned someone had stolen “Inquisitive Eagle” last week.

The bronze sculpture had been on display since May at the Bethelview Road trailhead of the Big Creek Greenway.

The county was leasing the piece from Johnson for a year through a grant provided by the Forsyth County Artists Alliance.

An employee of the parks department reported Aug. 28 that statue had disappeared overnight, according to a Forsyth County Sheriff’s report.

“Given the approximate weight of the statue, it would have taken two or more individuals to remove it from the base,” the report states.

The bronze statue is 60 inches tall, 54 inches wide, 45 inches deep and weighs about 400 pounds. It has a retail value of about $16,500.

Johnson said he creates works for cities across the United States and Canada “to bring art to the people in public settings.”

“As a sculptor, I have 18 sculptures out in 15 cities,” Johnson said. “This is the first one that has been stolen from me.”

The reason for the felony theft has eluded him, though his theories range from a high school prank to worst-case scenario — the statue was sold as scrap metal.

“There’s unethical people out there that are stealing copper,” Johnson said. “It’s a huge disappointment. I guess in a way you could say that it’s a back-handed compliment — that they liked it enough to put it in their yard. But I don’t think that’s the case. I think they stole it for pennies on the dollar.”

He said the bronze metal used to create the sculpture is the traditional choice.

Bronze is 90 percent copper and the remainder is trace metals. Johnson said bronze is “superior” to copper in strength and its ability to take color.

Sheriff’s Lt. Col. Gene Moss said the agency has provided information and an alert to metals recyclers in the area and across the Southeast.

“It’s a possibility that [the sculpture] could be used to be melted down for the copper that’s in it,” Moss said.

He added that copper thefts occur occasionally in Forsyth, but haven’t been “a real big issue.”

“In this case, it could be the reason it was taken, was for the metal,” Moss said. “But we’re also looking at other avenues, other reasons.”

He said the agency is also asking the public’s help in providing information for the ongoing investigation.

 

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