Vermont, R.I. sculpture thefts might be linked
By PATRICK McARDLE STAFF WRITER – Published: May 26, 2010
DORSET — A second edition of a Rhode Island artist’s bronze sculpture of a woman is missing from a local home and is believed to have been taken around the same time as an edition was taken from outside a Rhode Island arts center in March.
State Trooper Timothy Newton is investigating the disappearance of the sculpture, “Embrace of Life II,” from outside a home on Danby Mountain Road.
Another copy of the sculpture was taken from outside the Four Corners Arts Center in Tiverton, R.I., in early March.
According to the website of Narragansett, R.I., artist Mimi Sammis, there are five copies of the sculpture, which was created in 1999.
Newton said Tuesday that police have no reason to believe that thieves are targeting that particular sculpture although he added that “anything’s possible.”
Owner Sheila Frantz reported the disappearance of the Dorset sculpture to police on Monday.
Newton said there were some challenges in the investigation. Because Frantz isn’t a full-time resident, she could only narrow down when the sculpture went missing to sometime in March or April.
The sculpture, which Sammis sells for $30,000, was outside but not visible from the road so Newton said police are trying to establish who might have known it was there.
A connection between the thefts in Rhode Island and Vermont seems unlikely. The site of the Tiverton theft is more than 200 miles southeast from Dorset.
The Herald News of Fall River, Mass., reported that police arrested two men who they believed stole the 300-pound sculpture a few days after it was reported missing.
The two men, James MacNaught, 31, of Tiverton, and Robert Coelho, 29, of Fall River, were arrested and charged with felony counts of receiving stolen property and conspiracy after police received a tip from a neighbor of MacNaught, who told police MacNaught was seen cutting apart the statue.
Police said they believed the men planned to cut up the statue and sell it for scrap metal.
At the time, police were hopeful they might recover the pieces and Sammis said she believed she might be able to weld the pieces back together.
But Herald News reporter Derek Vital said Tuesday he didn’t believe the pieces had been recovered.
While those responsible for the disappearance of the Dorset sculpture may not have been involved in the theft in Rhode Island, that doesn’t mean they may not have struck again in the local area.
State Police have also been investigating the disappearance of a large African sculpture from outside a Peace Road home in Dorset. That sculpture went missing on April 29.
Sammis said on Tuesday that “Embrace of Love II” had a lot of meaning to her and one edition of the sculpture had been displayed at the United Nations.
However, Sammis said she believed that if the sculpture in Dorset was stolen, it was probably only for the bronze of which it was made and not because of the sculpture’s artistic value. She said she believed that’s what happened in Rhode Island.
“It’s awful that someone would just hack it up into pieces. But I always try to be positive and I thought what good could come out of this and I thought, ‘Well, maybe these two guys (MacNaught and Coelho) will get some help and get over their addiction.’ I also thought, I’ll get to create a new sculpture,” she said.
Sammis said she sold Frantz the piece when Frantz was living in Greenwich, Conn., but she wasn’t sure of the year.
The Peace Road sculpture was in the shona style and created in Zimbabwe. The 5-feet-tall by 3-feet-wide sculpture, which weighs about 150 to 200 pounds, is titled, “U-KAMA” and depicts a family in a circle with outstretched arms.
“It’s too much of a coincidence to overlook the possibility they could be connected,” said Lt. Reg Trayah, station commander of the Shaftsbury state police barracks.
Trayah said officers had spoken with a company that oversees the sales of art pieces. According to Trayah, art dealers contact the company when someone wants to sell a piece of art so the dealer knows if the piece has been reported as stolen. The company’s staff will also monitor sales so they can alert police if a piece that has been reported stolen has been sold.
Anyone with information about the disappearance of either sculpture in Dorset is asked to call the Vermont State Police at the Shaftsbury barracks at 442-5421.