Followup: Stolen ‘Walking on Logs’ sculpture still missing; theft returns its past and plight to the spotlight

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Exactly one week has now passed since one of the four “Walking on Logs” sculptures was discovered missing, but there’s still no word of breakthroughs in the case.

The theft was discovered when volunteers from the Walking on Logs Landscape Restoration Group and Kiwanis Club of West Seattle arrived at the site alongside the Fauntleroy end of the West Seattle Bridge last Saturday morning for cleanup and weeding. (Here’s our first report, from last Saturday night.) The sculpture was severed above the foot that had balanced atop a “log,” as shown in our top photo (from Friday), leaving behind these three:

It’s not the first public-art theft in West Seattle; the Rotary Viewpoint Park totem-pole heist of 2009 comes to mind, as do years of vandalism/theft incidents targeting the original Alki Statue of Liberty.

But the Dancing on Logs site has had other challenges. First, some history: The four bronze “dancing children” by renowned artist Phillip Levine of Burien were installed in 1996. Following up on the installation’s history and context over the past week, we learned that Clay Eals, executive director of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, interviewed Levine on video just last month, out at the sculpture site, with traffic whizzing by. He and Levine agreed that this unedited interview could be published as part of our followup:

He talks about location as well as the inspiration for the “sheer joy” exuded by the sculptures’ pose. (You can see more of Levine’s work here.) Eals also recorded video of each of the sculptures – starting with the one that is now gone (also visible behind Levine during much of the interview above):

Eals then photographed Levine with Earl Cruzen, who made the Murals of West Seattle project happen – that’s what the statue was part of, confirmed Calandra Childers of the city Office of Arts and Culture, noting that “the whole project was funded from matching-fund grants from both King County and from Department of Neighborhoods. SDOT allowed the artwork in the right of way with the understanding that the community would maintain the artwork.”

In Eals’ May photo below, that’s Levine at left, Cruzen at right, and the now-stolen sculpture at top left:

Cruzen, now 93, took care of the sculptures’ site often singlehandedly until four years ago, when Nancy Driver of Fairmount spearheaded the organization of what became the Walking on Logs Landscape Restoration Group, as reported here in March 2010. Volunteer cleanups organized since then have not drawn much response. Driver got a few volunteers from the Kiwanis Club for the one last Saturday.

The theft of one of the sculptures might lead to renewed attention for the site’s plight. The West Seattle Chamber of Commerce has long been accountable for giving permission for nonprofits to display messages there, and board president Nancy Woodland tells WSB:

The West Seattle Chamber of Commerce has been calendaring the Walking on Logs decorations for years. Local non-profits schedule time to dress the statues to promote activities that support the local community. The Chamber is now committed to stepping up that involvement to help support the dedicated work of others including Nancy Driver, the Department of Neighborhoods, SDOT, and SPU to maintain the site. We’re exploring all options for involvement but are hopeful that our membership of business owners will step in to help with clean-up efforts bi-annually at a minimum. This is a first impression of our amazing community and we want to help make it a good one.

Right now, though, the search is still on for the missing sculpture. Here’s another look:

(WSB file photo by Christopher Boffoli)
If you have any information about what happened to it and/or where it is, you can call 911 – mention case number 14-198308 – or contact the Southwest Precinct at 206-733-9800. Its burglary/theft detectives are handling the case, according to the SPD spokesperson with whom we last checked.

22 Replies to "Followup: Stolen 'Walking on Logs' sculpture still missing; theft returns its past and plight to the spotlight"

  • Kg June 28, 2014 (9:57 am)

    My suggestion is that every time the chamber gives permission for a nonprofit to use the statues, it comes with the stipulation they do a little clean up of the site.

  • June 28, 2014 (10:40 am)

    I am sorry that one of the statues was stolen, and I appreciate the people who have tried to take care of this site. That said, I propose that it is time to move these statues to a more appropriate location. Ercolini Park comes to mind as an excellent option, and I’m sure there would be many others in our ever-changing landscape. These statues have always been too dark and too small to be enjoyed fully from a distance and at 35 mph. They are increasingly invisible, despite the best efforts of the volunteer gardeners … to the point that no one even knows when this statue was taken.

    The “dressing up” aspect (not very effective in my opinion, anyway) would be lost in a different location, but I think the sculptures themselves would be appreciated more if one could actually see and interact with them.

  • clark5080 June 28, 2014 (12:10 pm)

    Bet it was sold for scrap.

  • Paula June 28, 2014 (12:20 pm)

    I agree with kg. Why not make site cleanup a condition for using the sculpture site for advertising? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

  • Enviromaven June 28, 2014 (12:33 pm)

    I love the way these cheerful statues welcome everyone to West Seattle, but I’ve noticed that several young trees have been planted among them. I love trees, too, but I have to wonder if it makes sense to further obscure artwork that’s already kind of hard to see (?)

  • Rick June 28, 2014 (12:54 pm)

    How about “Children playing on an overpass”?

  • dsa June 28, 2014 (12:58 pm)

    Disappointing, but they should be relocated to a more secure location.
    I’m sure more will disappear as I’ve seen and been victim to what these scavengers will do for recycle metal.

  • Azimuth June 28, 2014 (2:00 pm)

    I agree completely with ™ (is that name trademarked?).

  • Jeannie June 28, 2014 (2:17 pm)

    Must have been City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco, scammed into thinking he was donating metal to a good cause. (Yes, you can read all about how this gullible but well-paid fellow got tricked into donating more than $120,000 worth of scrap metal to a fake charity claiming it was helping disabled Native American kids.)

  • iggy June 28, 2014 (2:38 pm)

    Insurance? Maybe transferring the art to the City of Seattle, which I’m assuming has a blanket insurance policy on its public art. Perhaps the sculptor, Levine, could make a duplicate of the stolen work. Probably too expensive.

  • j June 28, 2014 (5:54 pm)

    We better get used to this sort of thing. Until we stop the brilliant plan in Seattle to”cure homelessness”we will continue to attract, feed and shelter the NATIONS homeless. Ask San Francisco. We will continue to lose statues, grounding wires, bicycles etc. The migrant homeless are making their way back north to “Free-attle” for the summer. Someone needs to get the word out to them that Nicklesville has moved. New people showing up to the old site by 1st Ave bridge daily. New encampments can be seen from the bridge looking west in the area closed to trespassing. Another place one might look for the missing statue is between 1st Ave and 4th Ave south of Spokane St along the rail road tracks. It is impressive the amount of “goods” that end up there. Campers,trailers,motorhomes and piles of tarped crap. Also look out on harbor island around the bend by T-18. Nice little encampment there too. Motorhomes,giant propane tanks and generators. Nice little Free living area. They ride nice bikes!

  • Cãrlãinthebãrrã June 28, 2014 (8:41 pm)

    I’m very sorry to see this has been stolen also, BUT moving it is ridiculous! It’s so cool coming up the bend on the freeway there & seeing it represent West Seattle!!! IMO I absolutely love the tshirts, the costumes, Girl Scout sashes, etc…so cute!!!
    I am 5 doors from Ercolini Park…you want a bunch of toddlers to appreciate this art? Where do u suggest it go in the park? Maybe smack in the middle of the field so the kids can enjoy climbing all over it!! Again ridiculous! BTW, there’s a lot of graffiti and cherry bombs in the outhouse…fire in the outhouse…there’s people in all areas, all neighborhoods in Free attle that steal and deface property daily!!!

  • Lynne June 29, 2014 (8:40 am)

    I’m so sad this was stolen, but I agree with the statues staying in the current site. Moving them to a site I don’t see every day would make me sad. They’re such a great welcome to West Seattle. They set the tone for what this area of town is about; children, fun and playing in nature. I also enjoy seeing them dressed up and agree on the idea of those organizations helping with site maintenance. I hope they find the statue and that all of us that enjoy them so much can participate in taking care of them. By the way, they could get stolen from any location.

  • AIDM June 29, 2014 (3:00 pm)

    I think it would be a shame to move these statues to a “more secure location” as others have said since these statues are really the greeters of West Seattle. They let locals know that they are home and serve as a welcome to visitors to the peninsula. Its an aspect of West Seattle that has some uniqueness and I would hate to see them moved from this spot. Now that West Seattlites are no longer posting personal greetings and birthday wishes on the pedestrian overpass, I would hate to see this very personal and unique aspect of West Seattle vanish also.

  • WestSide45 June 29, 2014 (4:22 pm)

    From tm—
    “These statues have always been too dark and too small to be enjoyed fully from a distance and at 35 mph.”
    When is the last time anyone drove past there at 35 mph? Bad traffic notwithstanding?

  • justamom June 29, 2014 (4:58 pm)

    Ercolini is not THAT bad of an idea. What’s wrong with kids getting close to them, playing on and around them, posing for photos, etc? It’s not like they’re fine art. I’d take my family there. Better than whizzing by in car seats not ever even seeing them. Agree that it wouldn’t solve the problem of theft, but it’s certainly not a ridiculous proposal.

  • dsa June 29, 2014 (5:23 pm)

    Let’s see what the nay sayers say to moving them when only two are left.

  • McGruff June 30, 2014 (6:30 am)

    I know it’s a real long shot, but has anyone searched the underbrush near the sculpture? Given it’s weight, I doubt anyone dragged it up the hill, but it might have been dragged across the hill and stashed in the foliage 50 – 100 yards away for eventual recovery. Just a thought.

  • Hing Ng July 1, 2014 (3:20 pm)

    If it can’t go to a park, then perhaps it could be moved to an intersection where people stop, like Waiting For the Interurban. It would be more visible which would help the security issues.

  • wsrambo July 1, 2014 (9:31 pm)

    Cameras anyone? No-brainer.

  • Mike July 2, 2014 (12:55 pm)

    I think the site is great. I don’t think it has been properly maintained. I also think the artists work has become secondary to the outfits, banners etc that walking logs
    seems to be wrapped in daily. Seems a shame…stolen,
    defaced and not maintained. Maybe the community should
    rethink the value added of this artwork considering the enormous amount of money going into the core redevelopment of west Seattle.

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