A Good Samaritan who said she snatched a wobbly head off a statue of Anna Browne, the namesake of Browne’s Addition, prompted several hours of searching in the neighborhood Wednesday before the mystery was solved.
The neighborhood council first reported the head missing around noon. Around 5 p.m., Karen Mobley, the city’s former arts director, received a call from a “very nice lady” who lives near the statue.
“She and her husband detached it because it was bent,” Mobley said. “She was concerned about it and didn’t want to leave it for someone else to take. She just didn’t get around to call anyone.”
The woman who found it does not want to be interviewed, Mobley said, and it’s unclear whether the head had been vandalized before the woman took it. But Mobley said she believes the woman and hopes to have the head restored in a few days.
The statue, which was erected in 2005 as the centerpiece of a small patch of private property at the neighborhood’s entrance, is the work of Sister Paula Turnbull, a Spokane nun and leading figure in the local art scene. It was sponsored by the Spokane Arts Council and Spokane Fire Department, which has Station 4 within sight of the statue.
Turnbull also created Riverfront Park’s famous garbage-eating goat sculpture.
“It’s just too bad,” said Timothy Finneran, of the Browne’s Addition Neighborhood Council, after he discovered the head missing. “It’s the gateway to the neighborhood, and we want our head back.”
Turnbull could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Mobley said vandalism of public artworks in Spokane is infrequent.
“Sometimes people do things that are more, if you will, playful,” she said, recounting the time someone climbed the Lincoln sculpture and placed knit hats on its head. “It was like a dare … It wasn’t somebody trying to damage something.”
Mobley said the sculpture, depicting Browne side-by-side with her daughter, Alta, is a metal framework with copper tubing for the clothing and hair. Their faces, arms and hands are aluminum, copper and brass alloy.
The pieces of the statue were welded together, she said.
The person is responsible for taking off the head “probably worked pretty hard to break the weld joints,” Mobley said. “It was fairly durable.”
Last year, the head of a Virgin Mary statue was found in a small storage closet of vacant rental property on North Ruby Street, four years after it was beheaded by vandals at Mount St. Michael.