Two Wolves Missing from Abingdon Pack
Colorful Statues Painted by Local Artists
By DEBRA McCOWN | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER | June 23, 2009*** Published: June 23, 2009 in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier. ***
ABINGDON, Va. – Two days after 27 painted wolf statues were placed around town, two of them were missing Monday.
There are no suspects, but town police and local officials say they will watch for any tampering with the remaining statues.
"I think people are pretty upset," said Courtney Bledsoe, spokeswoman for Barter Theatre, whose wolf disappeared Sunday night. The second statue went missing from outside a downtown business.
"Over the weekend, people were thrilled walking up and down taking pictures and talking about it," Bledsoe said of the statues. "People were excited about it and the fact that we're planning to make it an annual thing and that they can buy the wolves at the end."
The colorful statues, placed Saturday, were each painted by a local artist and will decorate the town until October, when they will be auctioned off to benefit Advance Abingdon, the town's Main Street organization.
Sporting flags, eagles, butterflies, tuxedos and even polka dots, each statue had a theme and a name, from Hollywolf Incognito to Earth, Wind and Flowers.
The wolf sponsors paid $300 to $500, depending on the size of the statue, and artists put hours of work into each one. Wolves were chosen for the project because the Abingdon area was once called Wolf Hills.
"Some number of people [who stole the statues] have managed to spoil what's probably one of the greatest things that's happened in Abingdon in a long time," said Gary Kimbrell, president of Advance Abingdon.
Kimbrell advises those who have the statues to pull them inside at night if possible. He said if the thieves return the statues, they won't be charged; Abingdon just wants its wolves back.
"If they'll bring them back and put them at Town Hall, put them back where they were, we'll let them go," he said. "Something that should be a great day for Abingdon has ended up being a sad day because of what they've done."
Kimbrell said the lightweight platforms – Styrofoam coated in concrete – that make the statues easy to move should not be blamed for the theft. But the organization will find a better way to secure them — and fast.
"I put them on a Styrofoam pad, that's the least most important thing; that shouldn't make a difference. It's about what a group of people maliciously stole from the town of Abingdon," Kimbrell said.
The plan is for the wolves to be auctioned Oct. 23 at a gala on the Barter Green [now called Porterfield Square], a Friday night event called "Who's Afraid of Virginia's Wolves?"
Meanwhile, in a town striving to market itself as a tourism destination for the arts, Bledsoe's message to the thieves is simple — bring back the wolves.
"Please just consider the work that went into these and the artists' time and effort and return them, and don't do this again," she said.
Allen Hay, a patrol officer for the Abingdon Police Department, said the theft is grand larceny, a felony that carries a penalty of jail time plus a fine.
He said the statues were taken after 10 p.m. Sunday and the thefts were reported Monday morning.
"They're useless to anyone who would steal them because someone will tell on them," Hay said. "That [a wolf statue] isn't something you see around every day."