A metal sculpture installed at the EnergySolutions Arena as part of a New Year’s Eve celebration was stolen earlier this week.
The tree-like sculpture titled Winter Wonderland by artist Joe Casalino Jr. disappeared sometime before Tuesday morning, according to Utah Museum of Contemporary Art spokeswoman Sam Bontempo. The sculpture had been installed on a planter outside the ESA for "Secret Eve," a UMOCA-sponsored art stroll that was part of Salt Lake City’s New Year’s Eve celebration.
Bontempo said a UMOCA employee noticed the sculpture was missing Tuesday about 8 a.m. Representatives from the museum searched for the sculpture and asked around to see if anyone had seen it, but came up empty handed.
Casalino said he installed the sculpture Dec. 27 after two or three days of work building it. He also specially designed and built a clamp to attach the piece to the concrete "so that nobody would steal it." When he later discovered that someone had pried it off, he was shocked.
"I spent all this time designing the sculpture and putting my personality in it," Casalino said. "I treat my sculptures like they’re part of me. It’s a violation."
The art stroll invited participants to walk between the Gateway Mall and the UMOCA, located in the northeast corner of the Salt Palace, while taking pictures of temporarily-installed outdoor art. Participants also were encouraged to take pictures of the art and tag them with the hashtag #secreteve on Instagram. The UMOCA offered prizes to people who posted and tagged photos of the art.
According to Casalino a photo of the piece showed up online Dec. 29, indicating that it was still in place during first part of the three-day New Year’s Eve celebration.
Bontempo said it was unclear who took the sculpture or why. She speculated that someone might have swiped the art — which was bolted down and installed with permission fromESA officials — without understanding that it was a sculpture or part of an exhibit. And while Bontempo acknowledged that outdoor sculpture always faces the risk of theft or vandalism, she emphasized the importance of public art and said it was disappointing that someone took the sculpture.
Casalino said he estimated the sculpture’s value at about $200. It was designed specifically for the area outside the ESA that includes a small grove of trees.
Casalino said he has emailed Salt Lake City police about the incident but had not yet heard back Friday. Salt Lake Lt. Josh Scharman searched for a report about the theft Friday but said he was unable to locate anything.
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