Until last week when thieves hacked it up and sold it to a recycling center for around $250.
“We are devastated,” museum officials said in a Facebook post.
Detectives are investigating and museum officials have launched an online fundraiser for the $15,000 they say is needed to cover the artwork’s insurance deductible and to bolster security for several others. exterior sculptures on the property.
Tallchief’s was one of the museum’s “Five Moons” statues, bronze works depicting five of Oklahoma’s renowned Native American ballerinas. The other four are Tallchief’s sister, Maria; Yvonne Chouteau; Rosella Hightower; and Moscelyne Larkin.
“These women had such an extraordinary impact on history,” Sharon Terry, then director of the Tulsa Historical Society, told Tulsa World when the statues were unveiled. “It’s been said many times before, but it’s still true: the world of ballet was exclusively European until the arrival of these five Indian women, all from small towns in Oklahoma. They really made room for Americans in the world of ballet.
Maria Tallchief, ballet star who inspired Balanchine, dies at 88
Local artists Monte England and Gary Henson created the statues, the museum said. England worked on two of them before his death in 2005; Henson completed the project in 2007.
Ahead of the unveiling, Henson told Tulsa World that carving “Five Moons” gave her “an opportunity to express my own appreciation of ballet. It’s a way of looking at the human condition. Here are these five Native American women who are able to do incredible things – to move in ways that most of us can only dream of – and who were able to pull it off once they had their chance.
Tallchief, born in 1926 and raised in Fairfax, Okla., moved with her family to Los Angeles as a young girl so she and her sister could continue their ballet training, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. In 1957, she joined the Paris Opera Ballet, becoming the first American to achieve the dance company’s highest rank of prima ballerina, or “star dancer”, the Oklahoman reported last year. A year later, she performed at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, the first American to do so since the end of World War II.
During her career, Tallchief danced for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. She also played for French President Charles de Gaulle, according to the historical society.
In 1991, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
From the Archives: Maria Tallchief of Fairfax, Okla., travels to the heights of the ballet world
Tallchief retired in 1993 after serving as a dance director for ballet companies in Dallas, Chicago and Boca Raton, Florida. Last November, she died at her home in Delray Beach, Florida, at the age of 95. She was the last surviving member of the Five Moons.
“As an Osage and a native of Fairfax, she has achieved success in the world of ballet that was previously unthinkable for someone from her background,” Trait Thompson, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, told the Oklahoman Last year.
While the museum has recovered part of the Tallchief statue, some pieces are still missing, the Associated Press reported. The statue’s original mold burned in a fire, complicating any effort to replace it.
But it is not impossible. On Monday, museum officials said they spoke to Henson, the sculptor who created many of the original “Five Moons” statues. He said that, even without the mold, he could recreate Tallchief’s.
In fact, he plans to, a sentiment he summed up in a tidy message to the museum.