Long Island artist heartbroken after metal sculpture stolen from art exhibit

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Patchogue, NY — A large sculpture was stolen from a Long Island art exhibitdisappointing the artist, who tells CBS2 that his work was supposed to teach a lesson in benevolence.

Instead, it was probably swept up like scrap.

The large metal sculpture, named “Kuleana” for the Hawaiian word meaning responsibility, is missing.

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

“My heart just dropped,” said Deer Park-based artist Pauline Leilani Badamo. “To not see him there, and as a parent, I felt like I was losing a child.”

Badamo told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff that she spent years designing the coin and months building it to honor two cultures, her native Hawaii and the Long Island Shinnecocks.

The sculpture depicts two people in a canoe saluting in a Hawaiian ceremony, symbolizing unity and the responsibility to care for each other and the earth.

“When they greet, they share ha, or the eternal breath, so it’s a show of connection,” Badamo said.

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

“It’s very possible that someone scrapped it for metal, for money. Because the price of copper went up,” Badamo said.

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

“Obviously, this mission is not yet complete because some people consider raw materials to be more important than the statements people make through those materials,” said Patchogue Arts Council senior curator John Cino.

“It wasn’t just a piece of metal,” Badamo said.

Badamo went door to door looking for surveillance footage. She even checked local scrap yards but found nothing.

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

Words were carved into the metal.

“It’s a call to unite as a community,” Badamo said.

Badamo says the work was also a vehicle for teaching Indigenous culture and values. The thieves also stole this from the public.

The sculpture, priced at $16,000, was going to be exhibited across the country.

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