Rock Dragon, the temporary public art piece that was stolen June 22, was found one week later and is expected to be returned to its perch at Maffeo Sutton Park. NEWS BULLETIN file

Rock Dragon, the temporary public art piece that was stolen June 22, was found one week later and is expected to be returned to its perch at Maffeo Sutton Park. NEWS BULLETIN file

Nanaimo’s Rock Dragon recovered

Public art piece found under a sleeping bag in library parking lot

The Rock Dragon will be able to soar back to his perch at the park.

The temporary public art piece that was stolen from Maffeo Sutton Park in a high-profile heist on June 22 was found exactly one week later, found curled up in a sleeping bag in the parking lot at a Nanaimo library on Friday.

“I’m pretty excited about it that it’s back,” said Heather Wall, the artist. “I figured it was gone. I was getting ready to build another one.”

She said she was “bummed out” by the end of last week and had gone out for a motorcycle ride. When she returned home, she said she had received a message from someone from the Nanaimo North Library who had spotted a flash of metal underneath a pile of blankets.

“She saw the claws of the bottom wings sticking out from the blanket. She was like, ‘I know what that is,’” said Wall.

She said the sculpture is waiting for her at the Nanaimo RCMP detachment. Wall hasn’t been told if there is any damage.

“It’s steel and metal. I can fix it. You can weld it back together,” she said. “I don’t know if he’ll have scars with the welds.”

Once she’s assessed the damage, she’ll decide on how she might be able to affix the Rock Dragon more permanently to its base, possibly with security bolts that can’t be wrenched off, possibly with welding.

Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said the police are treating the removal of the dragon as a theft and not a hoax. He said no one was tipped off that the sculpture would be dropped off in the library parking lot and police don’t have any suspects for the the theft, but the investigation remains open.

“We got it back. That’s great. Whether we ever find out who took it? Probably not,” O’Brien said.

Wall said she found a website dedicated to art thefts and said Picasso is the artist whose pieces have been stolen the greatest number of times.

“Apparently he’s had over 1,000 art pieces stolen from him. I have one. I’d like to keep it that way,” she said.

Wall said it was a bit of a surprise that the theft of her Rock Dragon received so much attention.

“From what I can tell, it went nationwide, which is pretty darn cool that people were that interested in public-space artwork,” she said. “And the people of Nanaimo, there was a lot of people, I think, felt really violated by it. It just brought a really bad vibe to the city of Nanaimo. Now that it’s back, I think that that’s been taken care of.”

-with files from Chris Bush/The News Bulletin



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