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Swiped statue raises security questions

The recent heist of the 150-pound bronze statue of Saint Albert the Great prompted the citizen-based arts advisory committee to discuss security measures for other local art works in their monthly meeting on March 23, although many options were deemed unviable. 
In light of the recent theft of the Saint Albert the Great statue downtown, the Arts Development Advisory Committee met to talk about art security measures. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

The recent heist of the 150-pound bronze statue of Saint Albert the Great prompted a city arts committee to discuss replacement options, along with security measures to safeguard other local art works. 

The citizen-based arts development advisory committee heard RCMP had no updates on the missing figure, which city staff reported stolen on the morning of March 14. The four-foot-tall statue, crafted by local artist Al Henderson, was located downtown on Perron Street and had managed to survive roughly 22 years of Alberta weather before being unwillingly removed from its pedestal. 

During the March 22 meeting, city public art associate Dana Murray told the committee the statue was insured for $17,000, which falls below the city's insurance policy deductible, meaning the city won't be reimbursed.

“We're still hopeful that the artwork will be found, but we can't rule anything out,” Murray said. 

Murray and the city's art collection manager Dani Rice encouraged members to brainstorm ideas for a potential replacement piece, even a temporary one, to be installed where Saint Albert the Great formerly stood.

“If something were to be recovered, which is obviously the best-case situation here, there's nothing to say that we can't reproduce something or do something in the meantime,” Rice said. “This is very much a sad and frustrating incident; however, we have to start thinking about next steps.”

“When something ugly like this happens — we're artists, we respond, we be creative instead of getting angry,” Murray added. 

Easy target

Murray said the city and the local RCMP had completed a risk assessment on other pieces of public art and determined the Saint Albert the Great statue was the only piece of its kind with exposed bolts, leaving it vulnerable to theft. 

“We chose to prioritize the bronze artworks based on their increased risk at this time,” Murray said. “I'm very pleased to say that all of them are still accounted for and not damaged.”

However, the assessment determined many pieces of public art are largely isolated, unmonitored and under poor lighting conditions.

The committee heard many theft-or damage-prevention methods, such as designated security guards or embedded tracking devices, aren't viable solutions in Saint Albert because of cost, or in the case of security cameras, lack of nearby power sources. 

“Some of these options are going to take a little bit of research, and it isn't a one-size-fits-all (situation) because every piece is in a much different environment with different resources available to it,” Rice said. 

Other ideas the committee discussed included developing an awareness campaign asking residents to keep an eye out for unusual activity near public art, and asking running groups to alter their routes to pass by public art and report back on any issues.

Murray said any strategy would need to ensure art was still accessible to the public.

“As much as I would love to have security guards monitoring everything, that's just not going to happen,” Murray said. 

“At what point do we give up access to the public and make it feel like they're not welcome in this space because we're so worried that something might (happen)?”

The discussion ended with the committee agreeing to brainstorm theft mitigation measures and ideas for a replacement piece before the next meeting, scheduled for April 26. 

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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