Price Sculpture Forest patrons will soon be able to give back in style.
Following a string of thefts, the Coupeville nonprofit will install a new, ultra-secure donation box that, in true Sculpture Forest fashion, is itself a work of art.
Last summer, the donation box at the park entrance on Parker Road was robbed on five separate occasions. After the first couple of incidents, neighbors of the sculpture forest ensured the donation box was emptied daily, making the thief’s subsequent visits less lucrative, said Sculpture Forest founder Scott Price.
Island County Sheriff’s Office eventually identified and apprehended the perpetrator.
Price estimates around $500 was stolen in total, but since the thief was caught, there have been no other incidents.
Still, Price wanted to preclude any potential future thefts with a more protective donation receptacle. This desire quickly started to gain traction when Price met Casey Strelecki, a talented but unknown Oak Harbor-based sculptor.
Strelecki has been making metal sculptures for almost two decades, though he has never displayed his works publicly before. A Navy veteran, Strelecki works at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland, using the same skills, such as welding, that he uses in his art.
Last year, Strelecki finished a steel and copper sculpture of a giant columbine flower and a hummingbird that stands over seven feet tall and took around 200 hours to make. A friend recommended he try to have it placed in the Sculpture Forest, which features nature-themed works.
Price said when he saw the sculpture, he was so impressed that he asked Strelecki to make a custom donation box, one that exceeds typical standards for strength and security and fits in with the park’s theme.
“(Price) had a general idea, and I kind of took it way out of hand with the artsy stuff,” Strelecki said.
The donation box, an ornately-detailed, 400-pound metal sculpture titled “Food for the Forest,” is shaped like a tree stump, complete with a pileated woodpecker on the side. The woodpecker is 18 inches tall, the same height as live pileated woodpeckers, which are one of many bird species that live in Central Whidbey. A complex internal lockbox will protect future donations.
“This ended up creating a lot of work though in the end we now have a new sculpture and a new sculptor in the park as a result of it, plus future donations will be extremely secure indeed,” Price said.