Bronze Plated Bullshit – Stealing New Orleans

Jan 1, 2007 by

In New Orleans, times are lean, people are rebuilding and we are extremely sentimental about anything intrinsically New Orleans. The theft of water meter covers, streetsigns and sidewalk tiles, and fleur de lis anything, has been a problem. We have dealt with this before. Thieving of architectural ornaments, grave statuary and wrought iron work are anathema to New Orleanians, and yet, common events. These purloined items are most often kept or sold for their aesthetic quality and are sometimes found in homes and antique shops from here to the Hamptons. At least the items are usually not destroyed, for which we can be grateful.

These items are stolen for what they are, not what they are made of. The rising price of scrap metals, unpoliced streets and empty homes have consorted to provide a convenient source of ready cash in New Orleans. As example, a friend who got several feet of water in his home in the Broadmoor neighborhood is restoring his flooded house. Like many New Orleanians with gutted homes, he is concerned with historical accuracy in the details of the rebuild. Many of us are concerned with preservation, like never before. Early on, he replaced his destroyed copper plumbing with expensive, new, copper pipes rather than inexpensive PVC. Shortly after the pipes were installed and the walls were still only studs, all of the copper plumbing was ripped out by looters to be sold for scrap metal or perhaps used in another home. At least these items, although costly, can be replaced.

The day after Christmas 2006, the nationally-renowned, local artist and Xavier professor, John T. Scott, was robbed. Several decades worth of bronze sculptures were looted from his studio. Were the criminals mastermind art thieves? Did they consider the increased value of these works that survived Katrina and the flooding of Scott’s Gentilly home? Did they presume that Scott, who is in a Houston Hospital coping with lung transplant complications, may pass soon and become posthumously sought after? No. They dismantled the bronze sculptures with handsaws and bolt cutters, taking the metal for its scrap value. This is sick. These sculptures were about slavery, oppression and New Orleans traditions. They spoke to us and about us and were certainly worth more that a few bucks per pound. These artworks were destroyed and cannot be replaced.

Shame, shame, bronze-plated, heavy and oppressive shame.

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