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Long Island artist heartbroken after metal sculpture was stolen from art exhibit

Long Island artist believes copper sculpture was stolen for metal
Long Island artist believes copper sculpture was stolen for metal 02:06

PATCHOGUE, N.Y. -- A large sculpture was stolen from a Long Island art exhibit, disappointing the artist, who tells CBS2 her work was meant to teach a lesson of caring.

Instead, it was likely swiped as scrap metal.

The large metal sculpture, named "Kuleana" for the Hawaiian word for responsibility, is missing.

Someone ripped out and hauled away the 65-pound installation, measuring about 6 feet long and 3 feet wide. It was on display with other works at the Patchogue Community Garden.

"My heart just fell out," Deer Park-based artist Pauline Leilani Badamo said. "To see it not there, and being a parent, I felt like I lost a child."

Badamo told CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff she spent years conceiving of the piece and months building it to honor two cultures, her native Hawaii and the Shinnecocks of Long Island.

The sculpture is of two people in a canoe greeting in a Hawaiian ceremony, symbolizing unity and responsibility to care for one another and the land.

"When they greet, they share ha, or the eternal breath, so it's a showing of connectedness," Badamo said.

She realizes it probably wasn't stolen for its artistic value. A certified welder, she uses copper because of its symbolism; it changes with time.

"Quite possibly someone scrapped it for the metal, for money. Because the price of copper has gone up," Badamo said.

The Patchogue Arts Council, which hosts the annual sculpture garden, says its mission is to elevate people's awareness of art; it's more than the sum value of its parts. In this case, that's metal worth less than $1,000.

"Obviously, that mission isn't completed yet because some people look at raw materials as being more important than the statements that people make through those materials," said John Cino, senior curator of the Patchogue Arts Council.

"It wasn't just a piece of metal," Badamo said.

Badamo went door-to-door looking for surveillance video. She even checked local scrap metal yards but turned up nothing.

Suffolk Police are offering a Crime Stoppers reward for information to solve the crime.

Words were etched into the metal.

"It's a call to unite as a community," Badamo said.

Badamo says the work was also a teaching vessel of native culture and values. Thieves also stole that from the public.

The sculpture, priced at $16,000, was going to be exhibited around the nation.

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