Missing Artwork at Baltimore Schools Catches Inspector General’s Eye

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The Guide at City College (via Oldeye Sculpture Studios)
The Guide at City College (via Oldeye Sculpture Studios)

Over the years, officials commissioned 400 pieces public art to beautify the campuses of Baltimore City’s public schools over the years. But a new report shows that several pieces are now missing.

According to a report from the city’s Inspector General, 12 sculptures are either “missing or discarded.” The commissions on the pieces make them worth about $258,000 combined, but the actual value could be much higher, the report states.

The missing sculptures include two at City College. One, called “The Guide,” is a 15-ft. steel sculpture at the front of the school. Another stainless steel piece, called “Citisphere,” was found in 2009 to have been “dismantled from its location in a plaza outside the school’s cafeteria and stored in a stairwell at the school with its assembly hardware missing.” Five years later, it was found missing.

Here is what the report says about the institutional knowledge of Citisphere:

“Discussions with school personnel about the two sculptures indicated that it was unclear: (1) when the sculptures were actually noticed as missing, (2) what actually happened to the sculptures, (3) who the sculptures belonged to, or (4) who was responsible for the sculpture’s maintenance and preservation.”

Carter Elementary sculpture, now and then (via IG report)
Carter Elementary sculpture, now and then (via IG report)

Another four pieces of art at Southwestern High School was found to have been discarded or dismantled during a renovation, including murals, a bank of doors and two steel sculptures. When the school was being renovated by SEED, one piece was removed by a contractor during construction. After being dismantled, it was apparently thrown out.

At Walter P. Carter Elementary School, a sculpture was apparently dismantled over the years. Commissioned for $27,000 in 1974, half of the series of bronze tubes was reported missing in a 1992 survey. When officials checked again in 2007, all of the tubes were missing. City workers apparently removed the tubes during those 15 years, but the school’s custodian didn’t know who took them or where they went.

“As can be seen from each of the varied examples of missing or deteriorated artworks, there has been a lack of accountability over the ownership, maintenance, preservation and protection of valuable artworks including sculptures at these various public school locations,” the report states.

Along with the school system, management of the public art is undertaken by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. The OIG recommended that both entities implement a system that identifies which school officials are responsible for individual pieces of artwork, and begin planning a program for maintenance and preservation of the artwork.

Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Technical.ly Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.

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  1. Probably scrapped and sold for drug money. Public art is too good for Baltimore. We can’t have nice things.

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