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Report: Officials lost, discarded $258,000 in public art at Baltimore's schools

More than $250,000 in public artwork was lost or inappropriately discarded from Baltimore public school grounds in recent years, according to a report issued by Baltimore's Inspector General.

A report released Friday by Inspector General Robert H. Pearre Jr. said that 46 pieces of public art are missing from the city's school system, including 12 pieces — mostly sculptures — that were commissioned for $258,000 decades ago. The art could be valued more now, the report states.

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Pearre began a review of public art kept on school grounds after being informed that a "significant number of pieces of art, primarily sculpture paid for with public funds and displayed primarily at various public schools in Baltimore, were either missing, discarded or in various stages of disrepair," he wrote.

"Existing artwork at the schools has not always been properly preserved and maintained," Pearre wrote.

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Since 1964, Baltimore has built up a collection of about 400 works of art. About 200 of those, including 50 sculptures, were commissioned for the campuses of the city's public schools or their recreation centers.

Pearre said he has undertaken a comprehensive inventory of public artwork and found that 137 pieces are still in place and 46 pieces are missing. The location of 22 works of art is undetermined, Pearre said.

His work builds on a series of surveys conducted by a local nonprofits and advocates that determined some high-dollar works of art were missing, the report states.

A 2014 survey found that both the "The Guide," a 15-foot-high steel sculpture in front of Baltimore City College, and "Citisphere," a stainless steel piece located outside of the school's plaza, were missing. The Guide was commissioned in 1977 for more than $23,000. Citisphere was commissioned in 1977 for more than $7,000.

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The surveys also found, for example, that $87,000 worth of artwork was discarded during a renovation of Southwestern High School and $27,000 of artwork has gone missing from Walter P. Carter Elementary School.

Other missing pieces include the outdoor sculpture "Sea Birds," which was valued at $14,872, from Calvin Rodwell Elementary School and a $39,260 sculpture, called "The Quest," from the Friendship Academy of Science and Technology.

Pearre wrote that he is recommending that the school system at the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts notify school principals that they have a duty to protect the public art on the campuses. The school system and city officials wrote in a response that its officials agree to do so.

"While we recognize ... that the responsibility and funding for maintenance and preservation of artwork is the responsibility of the City of Baltimore, City Schools recognizes the responsibilities of public stewardship that we share with the City and all other beneficiaries of Baltimore's Public Art Program," Schools CEO Gregory Thornton wrote in a response.

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