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UPDATE: 'Hatched Baby' statue deemed irreparable after theft

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The artist of the “Hatched Baby” has deemed the statue irreparable after it was stolen and damaged almost two weeks ago, city officials said Wednesday.

“In our latest communications ... the artist has deemed the statue un-fixable,” director Jay Odegaard told the Tribune in an email Wednesday morning. La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds reiterated that the statue was irreparable in a statement sent out a few hours later.

Jay Odegaard

Parks director Jay Odegaard

The statue, also commonly known as the “Blue Baby,” was dismembered over the weekend of Sept. 12 according to police. The face of the blue baby that was depicted as hatching from a cracked shell was taken off and stolen.

While unaccounted for, photos emerged online of the stolen artwork that appeared to show scuff marks on it. The face was found that Monday and returned to the city, after which officials said it would need repairs before it was displayed again.

Odegaard said more information would be released on the statue in the coming days and weeks. Police have not yet identified any suspects in the theft. Reynolds said in a statement Wednesday that police are continuing the search for those responsible, and asked the public to share any information they have.

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.

Hatched Baby had been stationed outside of city hall since 2018. It was created by artist Wolfgang Auer, an artist from La Crosse’s sister city of Friedberg, Germany, and was inspired by the birth of his daughter, created to represent the anxieties of parenthood.

“I have apologized on behalf of our community for the destruction caused to Mr. Auer’s sculpture and urged him not to feel that the actions by a few represent our community as a whole,” Reynolds said in a statement Wednesday.

The sculpture has prompted conversations about art in the community since its erection, and it has been the target of previous vandalism.

“The sculpture has provoked conversation and debate in La Crosse for several years,” Reynolds said. “Which is precisely what art should do.”

Over the weekend, a local artist launched a campaign to sell coasters featuring an original photo of the statue to help fund repairs. He said he would donate the profits to another public art initiative if Hatched Baby could no longer be repaired.

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