The case of the vanishing sculpture: ‘Walking on Logs’ down to two

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Last weekend, a reader texted us to say that “Walking on Logs” – the sculpture installation by the pullout near the west end of the West Seattle Bridge – appeared to be missing another of its bronze “dancing children.” We subsequently verified at the site that only two of the original four remain.

So was the latest one to vanish stolen, or otherwise removed? So far, we haven’t found evidence of the latter.

Back in 2014, one of the original four sculptures was stolen, and to date, it’s never been found. Now, it appears the same fate may have befallen one of the remaining three – unless someone reading this has an explanation we haven’t been able to find despite a variety of inquiries with the people and agencies who’ve had past involvement. The one that’s missing is in the upper left of this photo taken after the 2014 theft:

The bronze sculptures were installed in 1996. The artist was Phillip Levine of Burien, who died last year at age 90. He told local historian/journalist Clay Eals in a 2014 interview that the sculptures were meant to exude “sheer joy.” They were part of the turn-of-the-millennium “Murals of West Seattle” project led by West Seattle community advocate Earl Cruzen, who died in 2017 at 96 and worked until late in his life to maintain the roadside area around the sculptures.

Community maintenance was part of the deal when the city originally granted permission for installation of the sculptures, as the city’s Office of Arts and Culture told us while we were reporting on the 2014 theft – “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.”

So who is accountable for it now?

The community-volunteer effort dwindled for lack of new participation. The West Seattle Chamber of Commerce was once accountable pre-pandemic for granting permission to nonprofits to display messages at the site for special events, then handed that accountability off to Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association. We’ve checked with both those organizations and neither is aware of a reason one more sculpture is gone. Nor is the Kiwanis Club of West Seattle, which had some involvement with volunteer efforts in the past. Nor is the city – we asked SDOT, which in turn checked with Arts & Culture. We also asked Clay Eals, who hadn’t heard anything either.

In addition to the Walking on Logs sculpture stolen in 2014, other bronze artwork has been taken over the years – in 2015, for example, someone stole bronze fish from the Fauntleroy Creek overlook. And just last December, we published a Crime Watch reader report about bronze art stolen from outside a local home.

P.S. We visited the site twice in the past few days to verify and re-verify that the sculpture was missing. The first time, the pullout was empty; the second time – at midday Tuesday – this plateless, unoccupied pickup truck was there, backed part way into the muddy slope.

Related? No idea, but we did find that someone filed a police report yesterday about the truck. Police determined that it had been stolen from Pierce County and had it towed to an impound yard.

42 Replies to "The case of the vanishing sculpture: 'Walking on Logs' down to two"

  • WS Res February 8, 2023 (1:05 pm)

    How disappointing. Has anyone looked into what it would cost to have them re-cast?

    • bolo February 8, 2023 (7:52 pm)

      Not appropriate anymore, as the bronze material is apparently too much of a theft temptation. Sadly.

  • Alice Kuder February 8, 2023 (1:16 pm)

    This makes me so sad. Ironically, I noticed the disappearance just yesterday. Since I am not ordinarily very observant, and don’t drive by there very often, I thought I must be imagining things. As the artist intended, I have always found the installation to be a source of true joy. Let’s hope they can find the culprits this time and restore at least the latest missing statue.

  • Jim February 8, 2023 (1:52 pm)

    How heavy are they? It’s sad that people stealing stuff like that 

    • WSB February 8, 2023 (2:09 pm)

      It’s a great question – I couldn’t find that info while writing this but am still looking.

  • Lola February 8, 2023 (2:01 pm)

    I noticed yesterday a bronze colored Truck kind of in the ditch by the Welcome to West Seattle Sign.  It was there from Early Morning 6:30 AM and was still there at 5: 00 PM when I came home.  I even had a friend go ck. it out as it looked like his Truck that had been recently stolen down by Alki. He ran up and looked but said it was a Ford Truck and not his.  I hope it was not stolen then?  Sad that people feel the need to steal the Art-Work and stuff from West Seattle. 

    • WSB February 8, 2023 (2:08 pm)

      Was it the truck in the photo and footnote at the bottom of our story? We photographed that at midday yesterday.

      • Lola February 8, 2023 (3:23 pm)

        WSB,  yes that is the truck that I saw at 6:30 AM on Tuesday morning as I texted my friend about it.  He went up right away to have a look.  I could not believe it was still there when I came home that night as I thought it looked odd the way it was in the ditch.  I am glad it was not my friends but I still do not think he has found it.  I also told him to look down by the 1st ave bridge as a lot that are stolen get taken down there.  

        • DruggiePatrol February 8, 2023 (11:31 pm)

          I’m so glad to see someone posted that truck!  I too saw it on my way to work Tuesday morning and was shocked to see it in same place, returning from work around 6:30 same evening.  Both front and rear license plates were missing and there was a whole array of things in the bed of the truck.  I made note to report it, but by time I got home, I sadly forgot.  Shame on me as I am an advocate of reporting…just tired of the same druggie, criminal crap I see every single day now. I didn’t even notice the statue missing and I’m personally PO’d to hear this because a friend just had a family heirloom statue, stolen from their front yard.

  • Craig February 8, 2023 (2:07 pm)

    I saw that truck and was 100% it was attempting to steal the metal, but got stuck in the mud. Im’ more surprised that no cop passing by it in the two days it was there thought to pull over and investigate it, and it just stayed there that long without SPD involvement until a citizen called it in. I think we just need to move on and get some art that’s not easy to cut away from its base and steal by junkies and thieves. 

    • Lola February 9, 2023 (7:18 am)

      Craig,  I thought the same thing when I came home on Tuesday night. Do no cops go across the WS bridge at all?   For it to be there that long was weird.  I only saw it in the dark on my way to work then once more on the way home.  You would think that they would have at least ran the plates since it seemed that it was parked in a weird spot?  I hope it was not too trashed for the person who’s truck it was. 

  • Lucas February 8, 2023 (2:39 pm)

    Yesterday around 3:30pm, I’m pretty sure the truck in the pic was still there.

    • WSB February 8, 2023 (2:54 pm)

      The dispatch (from which I got the incident # so I could request the report on the truck) was logged at 7 pm Tuesday, so the tow would have been after that.

      • CAM February 8, 2023 (9:01 pm)

        The police were there with the truck, one of them speeding across the bridge lights on, just before 9 pm last night. 

  • Ian February 8, 2023 (2:45 pm)

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it were scrappers. They’ll take and sell any kind of metal that isn’t bolted down. I’ve had friends with metal art that was stolen and scrapped.

    • David February 8, 2023 (3:30 pm)

      That would be very sad if that is what happened. Just looked it up, current value of bronze is $ 2.38 a pound. The artwork is worth more that its weight in bronze to the community. Unfortunately, for some individuals, all they see is the $ obtained from recycling things that don’t belong to them.

    • AT February 8, 2023 (5:22 pm)

      Pretty sure that was bolted down :/

  • D February 8, 2023 (3:17 pm)

    Goodness, you would think they would be very heavy.  This is very sad. 

  • Odd son February 8, 2023 (3:51 pm)

    Stolen, ditched truck, stolen sculpture by Welcome to West Seattle sign. Yup, sounds about right, sign of the times. Welcome indeed!

  • bill February 8, 2023 (4:06 pm)

    Electrify the remaining sculptures.

    • Jill Loblaw February 9, 2023 (6:16 pm)

      I was thinking the same thing. LOL. 

  • Kendra February 8, 2023 (4:20 pm)

    It would be nice if the scrap yards were regulated to not take any artwork without proof of ownership, or be allowed to confiscate it. That might slow the thieves down and let the artwork be recovered. This makes me furious. 

    • Neighbor February 8, 2023 (8:37 pm)

      I doubt a scrap yard is going to accept a whole sculpture.  I expect in a situation like this the thieves break the sculpture down themselves, melt it into ingots, then sell those.

  • Neighbor February 8, 2023 (5:27 pm)

    Phillip would be furious if he were alive today. He was a kind and generous local artist whose legacy does not deserve to be marred with such garbage human behavior.

  • Welcome to WS February 8, 2023 (5:36 pm)

    There can’t be that many scrapyards around? Can’t police at least take a look? 

    • WSB February 8, 2023 (7:37 pm)

      Here’s one thing I didn’t even get into … no police report so far as I know because nobody “owns” the sculpture. We talked to every person/organization we knew of that has had some involvement, and it was news to them all. We wouldn’t have heard if not for the one reader who texted us last weekend to say they noticed while passing that it was gone. So I don’t know who has the right/responsibility to file a police report. Probably a question I’m going to circle back with Arts & Culture on…

  • Joan February 8, 2023 (5:37 pm)

    We can’t even have public art anymore. Better watch our Statue of Liberty.

  • YES2WS February 8, 2023 (5:58 pm)

    Additional weight could be how the truck got bogged down. I wonder if the sculpture was in the truck when it got towed. If so, it might be recovered yet.

    • WSB February 8, 2023 (7:31 pm)

      The sculpture was gone before the truck appeared – as I wrote, we went to the site on two separate days to verify it really was gone. The first time was late Sunday afternoon. Sculpture gone, no truck. The truck appeared at some point before we went back at midday yesterday (we don’t regularly travel the bridge but made two round trips just to look into this). So unless it was the same thieves and they stole the sculpture at some point before Sunday, then came back with it still in the truck and got stuck … I’ll ask SPD, though, stranger things have happened.

  • Barbara February 8, 2023 (6:03 pm)

    I think I first noticed the missing sculpture a week ago, Feb 1st but wasn’t sure, then confirmed it was gone a few days ago. I loved those and also am very saddened that they will not be bringing community pride and joy that they once did. I agree whoever accepted the priceless stolen artwork, that can never be replaced, is also as guilty as those who stole it.

  • Justin February 8, 2023 (9:44 pm)

    Have we ruled out the sculpture becoming sentient and simply walking away?

    • Ruby February 13, 2023 (10:20 pm)

      This ^^

  • John A. February 9, 2023 (4:20 am)

    At a Nursery in the Black Lake area of Olympia, they sell a large bronze-like statue of a sasquatch, as well as, smaller versions and other creatures. You wouldn’t know it wasn’t bronze until you’re up close and tapping on it a bit. It’s actually a form of heavy duty plastic. This would be a good alternative to bronze for replacement sculptures. 

    • Jill Loblaw February 9, 2023 (6:21 pm)

      I second a Sasquatch statue or better, a family! That would be much more entertaining.

  • John A. February 9, 2023 (4:38 am)

    I do remember that the first statue that went missing actually went missing twice. After the first time, it was replaced. I don’t know if they found and replaced it, or if it was recast/remade and replaced. If so, there should be molds somewhere to remake the two that are missing now. Or were those fashioned by hand with tools and hammers? 

    • WSB February 9, 2023 (9:31 am)

      No, it was not replaced. It’s been gone ever since that theft was originally discovered in 2014.

  • John E February 9, 2023 (5:06 pm)

    I stopped by the 2 remaining “kids” today…the “boy” sculpture has it’s leg sawed through…like they may have been getting ready to take it also, but perhaps got spooked away.   Really a sad day for for those of us who call West Seattle our home.

  • Gatewood Resident February 10, 2023 (8:56 am)

    This is quite literally “why we can’t have nice things”Why do we put up with this as a community? Are our extreme political views about crime and punishment worth it? 

  • lucy February 10, 2023 (9:43 am)

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  • momosmom February 10, 2023 (11:04 am)

    This is just my opinion… I’m tired of hearing/reading these 3 phrases:

    “This is why we can’t have nice things”

    “It is what it is”

    “Going from A to B”

  • 2 Much Whine February 11, 2023 (8:57 pm)

    Everyone seems to be suggesting that the statues are ending up at the recyclers.  It wasn’t too long ago that a local totem pole was stolen by someone that wanted it for their own use.  It was eventually returned and that person was fined.  This could be a similar situation – someone starting a collection. . . .   

  • Ruby February 13, 2023 (10:18 pm)

    Welp looks like I’m starting the clean up that area committee. 

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