Bronze figure stolen from park

The balancing boy bronze statue (second from right) has been stolen from the sculpture 'Follow the Leader' in Azalea Park.

SUMMERVILLE -- A bronze boy figure has been stolen from a popular town sculpture in Azalea Park.

The boy in the conductor's cap, balancing on a brick wall, has been removed from the sculpture "Follow the Leader," and police are searching the park and a nearby canal for it.

The life-size piece was removed after a three-quarter-inch mounting bolt was snapped, said Mike Hinson, town parks supervisor. The damage and apparent theft likely occurred Monday night.

"I'm not sure what the motivation is behind this," Hinson said. It could have been vandalism, but it could have been taken to try to recycle for money, he said.

The Azalea Park sculpture is a favorite among the 20 pieces that have been installed on public property in Summerville by the arts organization Sculpture in the South. It depicts five children and a dog walking the wall. The park is a signature attraction in the town, in the heart of its historic district.

The piece is the second installation of a youngster to be taken from a town park, following the removal of "Dreamin' of the Big Game" from Gahagan Park in 2007. It's the third to be seriously vandalized; the foundation of a hippopotamus sculpture was damaged in April in a pond in Shepard Park by someone who apparently went for a ride on its nearly submerged back.

The Gahagan sculpture was recovered too heavily damaged to be restored; it was replaced with a duplicate.

Organization and town officials said there's little more they can do to protect the public displays, which are bolted in as securely as possible.

"We just want to make sure we find the piece," said Janet Meyer, Sculpture in the South executive director.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or bpetersen@postandcourier.com.