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HomeCultureArts & CultureBronze statue of Osage prima ballerina Marjorie Tallchief stolen and sold for...

Bronze statue of Osage prima ballerina Marjorie Tallchief stolen and sold for scrap

Parts of the statue have been recovered but police are still looking for the remaining pieces in hopes the statue can be recast. The Tulsa Historical Society is raising money via a GoFundMe account to defray the cost of repairing the bronze and to increase security around the outdoor sculpture display known as The Five Moons

The bronze statue of Osage prima ballerina Marjorie Tallchief that has graced the grounds of the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum for about 15 years was stolen around April 28 then recovered on May 2, in pieces – missing her head and arm – at a recycling center in Catoosa.

For their theft and maiming of the work of art, the thieves or thief received something around $250 for the copper-rich bronze that was cast in Pawhuska by John Free, the Osage owner of the Bronze Horse Foundry.

The statue was one of five Native ballerinas from Oklahoma that Free cast; all are “en pointe” on one toe, which Free said made them more susceptible to theft than statues with larger, more secure bases.

 “We’ve never really had anything taken like that,” Free said. “It’s attached to the stone base, just a toe with a rod going through it. If you had enough guys pushing and pulling on it, you could break it loose.”

Michelle Place, the director of the museum, said on May 2 that the bronze had been sawed off its base, probably on Thursday night, although it was not noticed until Saturday.

News coverage over the weekend and viral social media sharing about the theft caught the attention of two employees at the recycling plant, Place said, and they stepped forward to say part of the sculpture was at the Catoosa facility. Place did not want to name the recycling plant but said it was a reputable operation with strict guidelines and rules, as well as being a part of a Fortune 500 company.

Sims Metal is a publicly-traded metal recycler that owns the only recycling plant in Catoosa.

The bronze and its four ballerina sisters – Maria Tallchief, Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower and Moscelyne Larkin – were sculpted by Gary Henson and Monte England. England died in 2005 before all were completed, but Henson was devastated by the loss of Marjorie Tallchief, Place said.

Parts of the statue have been recovered. The Tulsa Historical Society has set up a Go Fund Me account to defray the cost of repairing the Marjorie Tallchief bronze and to increase security around the outdoor sculpture display known as The Five Moons. Courtesy Photo/Tulsa Historical Society

“Gary is just crushed,” she said. “He said that provided it wasn’t too damaged, we can put her back together again.

“He kept saying, ’We can do this. I can bring her back,’” Place said.

Free reiterated that, from the photos he’s seen of the chopped-up bronze, it would be easy to put her back together. Of course, the remaining pieces of the sculpture would need to be found – and the Tulsa police and museum are urging anyone who knows where the statue’s head and arms are to call the police at (918) 596-COPS. Callers can remain anonymous and get a cash reward for tips that pan out.

Place said that the Tulsa police have “great leads” on the perpetrator or perpetrators of the crime. 

Recasting the entire bronze would be a challenge because the original molds for the statues are believed to have burned in a fire several years ago.

The Marjorie Tallchief bronze is not the first sculpture depicting an Osage woman to be the victim of a heist and turned into scrap. Last year, a 7-foot, 400-pound bronze of an Osage woman bartering with the French fur trader François Chouteau was plucked from her limestone bluff overlooking a fountain in Kansas City and sold for scrap. At the time, Kansas City Police said that they had witnessed many bronze plaques stolen but never a full-blown statue.

The Tulsa Historical Society has set up a Go Fund Me account to defray the cost of repairing the Marjorie Tallchief bronze and to increase security around the outdoor sculpture display known as The Five Moons. Within five hours, the effort had raised more than $3,000 but the goal is at least $15,000. For more information, visit https://gofund.me/ca48d159

Author

  • Louise Red Corn

    Title: Reporter

    Email: louise.redcorn@osagenation-nsn.gov

    Twitter: @louiseredcorn

    Languages: English, Italian, rusty but revivable Russian

    Louise Red Corn has been a news reporter for 34 years and a photographer for even longer. She grew up in Northern California, the youngest child of two lawyers, her father a Pearl Harbor survivor who later became a state judge and her mother a San Francisco native who taught law at the University of California at Davis.

    After graduating from the U.C. Berkley with a degree in Slavic Languages and Literatures with no small amount of coursework in Microbiology, she moved to Rome, Italy, where she worked as a photographer and wordsmith for the United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development, specializing in the French-speaking countries of Africa.

    When the radioactive cloud from Chernobyl parked over Rome in 1986, she escaped to New York City to work for the international editions of Time Magazine. She left Time for Knight-Ridder newspapers in Biloxi, Miss., Detroit and Lexington, Ky., During nearly 20 years with Knight-Ridder, she was a stringer (freelancer) for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Parade Magazine.

    In 2004, she married Raymond Red Corn and moved to Oklahoma, where she worked for the Tulsa World before she bought the weekly newspaper in Barnsdall and turned a tired newspaper into the award-winning Bigheart Times, which she sold in 2018. She hired on at the Osage News in early 2022.

    Throughout her career she has won dozens of state, national and international journalism awards.

    Red Corn is comfortable reporting on nearly any topic, the more complex the better, but her first love is covering courts and legal issues. Her proudest accomplishment was helping to exonerate a Tennessee man facing the death penalty after he was wrongfully charged with capital murder in Kentucky, a state he had never visited.

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Louise Red Corn
Louise Red Cornhttps://osagenews.org

Title: Reporter

Email: louise.redcorn@osagenation-nsn.gov

Twitter: @louiseredcorn

Languages: English, Italian, rusty but revivable Russian

Louise Red Corn has been a news reporter for 34 years and a photographer for even longer. She grew up in Northern California, the youngest child of two lawyers, her father a Pearl Harbor survivor who later became a state judge and her mother a San Francisco native who taught law at the University of California at Davis.

After graduating from the U.C. Berkley with a degree in Slavic Languages and Literatures with no small amount of coursework in Microbiology, she moved to Rome, Italy, where she worked as a photographer and wordsmith for the United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development, specializing in the French-speaking countries of Africa.

When the radioactive cloud from Chernobyl parked over Rome in 1986, she escaped to New York City to work for the international editions of Time Magazine. She left Time for Knight-Ridder newspapers in Biloxi, Miss., Detroit and Lexington, Ky., During nearly 20 years with Knight-Ridder, she was a stringer (freelancer) for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Parade Magazine.

In 2004, she married Raymond Red Corn and moved to Oklahoma, where she worked for the Tulsa World before she bought the weekly newspaper in Barnsdall and turned a tired newspaper into the award-winning Bigheart Times, which she sold in 2018. She hired on at the Osage News in early 2022.

Throughout her career she has won dozens of state, national and international journalism awards.

Red Corn is comfortable reporting on nearly any topic, the more complex the better, but her first love is covering courts and legal issues. Her proudest accomplishment was helping to exonerate a Tennessee man facing the death penalty after he was wrongfully charged with capital murder in Kentucky, a state he had never visited.

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