It was in the overnight hours during the Park City Kimball Arts Festival in 2012 when Santa Fe, N.M., sculptor Fredrick Prescott lost one of his pieces to thieves.
A year later, as Prescott returns for the festival, the sculpture remains missing. It is a high-profile unsolved crime in Park City, both for its daring and the dollar value of the loss.
The sculpture, in the form of a lion, disappeared sometime late on Friday or early on Saturday of last year's event. The festival opened Friday evening and Saturday was the first full day. Prescott, a veteran of the Park City festival, said at the time the piece was last seen between 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Friday. It was left unsecured at his festival location close to the Caledonian on lower Main Street.
Prescott's setup is traditionally one of the most prominent of the festival. The sculptures, some being among the largest pieces at the event, are easily visible amid the artist booths on Main Street. The 300-pound lion piece that disappeared, made of powder-coated steel, was bright yellow and bright red in color. It measured six feet long, three feet tall and three feet wide.
There were few leads immediately after the piece disappeared. A year later, the Park City Police Department said, little progress has been made in the investigation. The piece is valued at $12,000, making the theft among the most costly of the year in Park City.
Prescott soon afterward said there might be clues, such as a woman who lives nearby possibly hearing the sculpture being dragged away. It now appears, though, there were few clues for the police to pursue.
"I have heard nothing from the police," Prescott said.
Prescott said the sculpture was insured, but he did not file a claim, indicating doing so would have increased his insurance rates.
He said the thieves could be holding onto the sculpture or could have put it up for sale. If the piece was put on the market, Prescott said, it could go undetected if nobody who saw it for sale realized it was stolen.
"Sometimes after they've had it for a while, they realize they can't really show it, they shouldn't really have it," Prescott said.
He acknowledged that someone could have taken the piece for their personal collection, meaning it would be even more difficult to recover since it would not be advertised for sale.
The Police Department investigation yielded little, the department said as this year's festival approached. Rick Ryan, the captain who oversees the investigations unit, said there is a likelihood the thieves turned the sculpture into scrap metal. They could have become worried that the piece was in their possession or concerned about attempting to sell the sculpture, Ryan said.
"The few leads we did have didn't go anywhere," Ryan said, describing the case as "pretty frustrating."
The Police Department considers the theft an inactive case, meaning that it is not closed but all leads have been exhausted. Ryan said the loss, as measured by dollar value, was the worst during the arts festival that he could recall during his nearly 30 years with the department. It is also rare for a piece as large as the lion sculpture to be stolen, he said.
"It's a pretty big piece to try to keep hidden away," Ryan said, adding, "I kind of thought it would be abandoned somewhere or returned by somebody."
Main Street is guarded during the overnight hours during the arts festival. The Kimball Art Center, the festival organizer, hires private-sector security guards to protect the strip of artist booths.
Police officers are also on Main Street in the overnight hours, but they are not assigned directly to patrolling the booths. Ryan said some artists take their works out of the booths at night while others tightly secure their booths. Ryan said there are typically a few thefts of artworks reported each year during the festival.
Prescott, the sculptor, said he has lost two other pieces to thieves in Park City. One, valued at $14,000, was stolen during an earlier arts festival. It was taken from a trailer parked in Deer Valley, he said. The thieves only took part of the piece. The other one was worth between $8,000 and $9,000. It was taken in the last eight years from outside a Main Street gallery. The loss from outside the gallery was not during the festival.
During the festival this year, Prescott plans to string cables through the heads and torsos of the sculptures that could be easily carried off by thieves.
"In Park City, of all places, that was the third time I had something stolen," he said.
Anyone with information about the missing sculpture may contact the Police Department at 435-615-5500 or the department's anonymous-tip line, 435-615-5847. The department also offers an online tip form. The direct link is: https://www.tipsubmit.com/WebTips.aspx?AgencyID=994.