Missouri Thieves Take Theater Masks

July 31, 2013

St. Louis, Mo., police are trying to figure out exactly what thieves plan to do with 100-pound blue-glazed grotesque terra cotta theater masks stolen from outside the old Sun Theater on Grandel Square.

Fifteen of the giant masks were taken sometime between July 12 and July 16 from behind a locked construction fence at the century-old Sun, which is in the midst of an $11 million renovation, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Twenty-nine of the masks had been taken down as part of the renovation. The Lawrence Group, which is rehabbing the Sun, donated half of them to the City Museum. The eclectic downtown museum had planned to use the masks in a St. Louis architectural history display.

But when the museum went to pick up the masks, they were gone.

“Apparently the fence had been cut. It went unnoticed,” said Paige Rudd, who is managing the project for the museum. “I don’t know what somebody would do with them.”

Police are investigating, and no arrests have been made.

The masks are worth $1,000 to $5,000 each – but they aren’t easy to sell. Rudd said their value is mostly in the memory of what used to be.

“They tell a story of what that building was, what was on it. They’re beautiful,” she said. “Obviously they have some worth but here in the city they’re priceless.”

The Lawrence Group had sent several of the masks to Kansas City, Mo., as a template for lighter moldings, but still had 10 on hand.

After the theft, it gave six to the City Museum, Rudd said; the remaining four will be incorporated into the renovated building.

Everyone would like to have the whole row back.

“They didn’t just steal a bunch of clay heads,” Rudd said. “They stole history.”

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