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West Vancouver Road Runner vanishes

Artist pleads for return of art piece lifted from Harmony Arts

THIEVES in West Vancouver have done what Looney Tunes' hapless Wile E. Coyote was never able to do: capture the elusive Road Runner.

A sculpture made of recycled materials and inspired by the famously hard-to-catch bird was nabbed from its display outside the Silk Purse Gallery during the Harmony Arts Festival July 28. Some time during the night, the culprits pried up four pieces of rebar holding the statue down and carted off the two-metre tall, 27-kilogram art piece.

The bird's disappearance has prompted the artist to put out a plea for its return.

"It's not insured or anything," said Ron Simmer, the Burnaby sculptor behind the work, who was displaying for the second year at the West Vancouver art festival. "It's just a hobby for me. . . . It looks kind of disgusting to wrap things in chains and start padlocking it up, but maybe that's what's needed."

Simmer said he isn't sure who was behind the theft, though at this point he's not pointing fingers at any coyotes.

"I assume it was just a bunch of drunk kids who thought it would look good in their back yard," he said. "I don't know who in their right mind would steal something like that. I don't think I'll ever get it back, but I just thought I'd try."

Simmer makes all his pieces out of recycled materials such as metals and driftwood, including the two other sculptures left untouched by thieves. His work, Canadian Gothic, features two rusted figures holding a pitch fork, with heads made of shovels and startled looks on their faces, while Engine Block Bouquet turns car parts into a flowering garden of metal.

Road Runner was made using a tank and molded rebar for most of the body, while the tail is made of a rake and the eyes are bike spokes. It wasn't initially a portrait of the Looney Tunes character, but after the pieces came together Simmer noticed a resemblance.

"You see a bunch of stuff lying around and think: 'I can make something out of that.' You don't go into a concept; it just turns out how it does," said Simmer, a former commercial fisherman who draws heavily on his love of the ocean. Marine junk also features in much of his art.

This is the first time the festival has seen the theft of an art piece, though Katherine Tong, visual arts director for Harmony Arts, said it's something they always talk to artists about and work to avoid. Security personnel patrol the site at night, and that's been beefed up since the incident.

"We added security to the area, and we gave him the option for his other two sculptures . . . and asked if he wants to remove (them)," she said. The other sculptures will stay up for the rest of the festival, however.

Fifty-eight pieces are included in this year's group show, of which nine have already been sold.

The sculpture went missing the first night it was left outside, said Tong, adding the speed with which it disappeared lived up to the bird's reputation.

"We couldn't believe (how) quickly that one piece went missing," she said.

The gallery has also been in touch with West Vancouver police, and are directing anyone with information to them. In the meantime, Tong encouraged people to get out and see Simmer's two other works on display, and to look at his website:

The work will remain on display until Aug. 7.

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