Part of a Native American art exhibit at the University of Kansas was stolen after other parts were vandalized earlier this month, sparking anger on campus that the work was targeted again with success.
The installation, “Native Hosts,” is the university’s joint artwork for the year and has been on display since the summer. The artist, Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, is a 1976 KU graduate whose work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. .
The exhibit, located outside near the KU Spencer Art Museum, consists of five panels that identify the tribes that currently or historically inhabited the land that is now Kansas. Four of the five panels were folded and detached on September 4 and were dismantled to prevent further damage, the museum said.
The fifth panel remained on display until it was stolen this week, according to university officials.
“We unequivocally condemn this hurtful crime,” Chancellor Doug Girod and other senior leaders said in a press release. “The implications extend far beyond the criminal theft that it is and reach deeply into Indigenous communities who have worked for visibility – themes reflected in ‘Native Hosts’ by artist Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds . “
Following the initial vandalism, the KU Public Security Bureau posted an image of two individuals he identified as suspects. The image from 11:08 p.m. on September 4, apparently taken by a security camera, shows the two individuals walking on the sidewalk in front of the museum. No images of the theft suspects have been released.
“So the vandalism of two ‘unknown’ white individuals is happening against native art, the administrator’s response is a support email. The art has now been stolen. When will these acts of racism and violence be enough? Niya D. McAdoo, President of the KU Student Body tweeted.
Girod, provost Barbara Bichelmeyer and museum director Saralyn Reece Hardy said in a statement that the university’s commitment to reinstalling the panels was “unwavering”. The university is also planning to hold what it calls a “public conversation” about vandalism, theft and its effects on the community, they said.
The First Nations Student Association call for a rally outside the Spencer Museum at 3 p.m. Thursday.
“We’re not going anywhere and will let it be known that the artwork, Native Hosts, is alive and well in all of us !!” said the group.
This story was originally published September 30, 2021 13:09.