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Reed College carving stolen - then recovered

DAVID F. ASHTON - A large Le Roy Setziol carving had been hanging in the now-empty space to which Reed College Director of Communications Kevin T. Myers points. This photo was taken before the piece was recovered. It was no simple task to dismount and make off with the carved wooden panel artwork by Le Roy Setziol, long part of the entry foyer of Eliot Hall at Reed College, sometime overnight on April 30.

“The building is generally locked, but there were many end-or-the-year festivities taking place on campus,” said Reed College Director of Communications Kevin T. Myers. “There were many guests on campus, and activities going on in the center of the building that evening.”

College officials suspected that the individuals who took the large, heavy carving – which had been securely mounted to the wall – approached from the middle of the building between Community Safety officer rounds at 10:30 p.m. Saturday night and 12:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.

“It took some doing to get it down,” Myers said ruefully, looking at the blank space where the carving had once hung. “We don’t know what kind of tools they used, but they also took the mounting hardware with them.”

About a possible motive, Myers commented, “We don't know the intention of the individuals that did this, so we don't want to speculate whether or not this was a prank.”

The artist whose work it was, called “a composer in wood” by the Portland Art Museum which also displays his works, Le Roy Setziol here had created lyrical sculpture that honored the beauty of wood, a material strongly identified with the Northwest.

“It is quite a blow to the community when something like this happens, because it was given to us by John and Betty Gray, who are benefactors of the college,” Myers said.

John D. Gray was a trustee of the college from 1961 until 2006, and with his wife Betty he established the “Gray Fund” in 1992, with the mission of “stimulating cultural, social, and recreational programs of excellent quality”.

According to the Director of the Reed College Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Stephanie Snyder, no other artwork has ever been stolen at the school.

“I think people were kind of shocked that something like this would happen,” Myers said.

Whether a botched art robbery or a prank, to general relief the episode ended about 7:00 a.m. when campus security came across the missing carving, little the worse for wear, in “a highly visible place near a campus pathway where it was protected from the elements,” Myers said.

“Everything they took away, they brought back – including the mounting hardware!” concluded Myers. “The important thing is that we have the piece back.”