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La Crosse Arts Board denounces theft of 'Hatched Baby' sculpture, asks suspects to come forward

From the COLLECTION: Damaged beyond repair, no suspects series
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Blue baby has gone missing

The blue baby head of a sculpture situated outside La Crosse City Hall went missing over the weekend. Its egg base is seen empty mid-day Monday.

After the blue baby face of a sculpture was stolen from outside La Crosse City Hall over the weekend, officials are condemning the theft.

The La Crosse Arts Board released a statement Tuesday, a day after the piece of artwork was found, saying it “denounces the act of willful damage” to the artwork, titled “Hatched Baby.”

“We urge those who participated in these acts of vandalism to come forward so we may begin the process of restoring this work of art now that the stolen portion has been recovered,” the board said. “Regardless of one’s opinion of a work of art, theft and vandalism are unacceptable.”

The face of the statue, which was created by an artist from La Crosse’s German sister city, includes a cracked egg shell with a blue baby head emerging from it.

Police reported seeing it dismembered early Sunday morning, and photos of the stolen face emerged on social media later that day. A homeowner reported finding the sculpture in their yard early Monday morning, and it has since been returned to the city, though there are currently no suspects in the theft.

Hatched baby

The Arts Board addressed the public’s mixed feelings on the sculpture, which has been sitting on the southeast side of city hall since 2018. After reports of the weekend’s incident, many comments flooded online from people saying they weren’t upset the sculpture had went missing.

“When art exists in the public sphere, it is subject to scrutiny, risk and sometimes outrage, and our community can support enthusiastic debate on this topic,” the board said.

“Works of art do not solely need to elicit feelings of joy. Art can evoke sadness, anger, thoughtfulness, and a myriad of other feelings. It is for the observer to distinguish their thoughts and feelings about the work of art,” the board said.

In addition, the board said that there are moments when removal of public art is warranted through an official process, such as the removal of the controversial Hiawatha statue last year, or removals of Confederate statues happening around the country.

“These examples exist in a completely different context and it is important to point out the difference between the crimes of theft and vandalism and planned dismantling of biased monuments,” the board said.

"Regardless of one's opinion of a work of art, theft and vandalism are unacceptable. ... Works of art do not solely need to elicit feelings of joy. Art can evoke sadness, anger, thoughtfulness, and a myriad of other feelings."

La Crosse Arts Board

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