Ten years to build and just minutes for vandals to destroy.
What once stood as a stunning piece of art was an Elk, constructed with shed antlers that stood over seven feet tall, laid riddled in pieces, broken and demolished.
Pat Fillman, long time resident and business owner in White Pine County, had taken 10 years to create the artwork, and took great pride in the 1,500 pound structure.
Fillman explained that at the request of the Great Basin Water Network, the Fillmans hauled in the art for the water hearings to help publicize the ongoing battle against the Southern Nevada Water Pipeline. The art was parked in front of the courthouse, several officers patrolled the area, but it wasn’t enough. The art had been in the Snake Valley Festival, the Fourth of July parade, and now here.
The art had been brought in and displayed in front of the White Pine County Courthouse Tuesday morning to show solidarity and support of White Pine County’s battle for water against Southern Nevada Water Authority. A sign displayed below the artwork read, “Wildlife without Water,” was showcased at several parades.
White Pine County Sheriff Scott Henriod explained the vandalism took place in the early morning hours. Several deputies had been patrolling through the night, when they patrolled the area at 3 a.m. the sculpture had been destroyed.
Henriod said, “It appeared as though someone climbed up onto the flat bed truck, and scattered the antler sheds down the roadway, as if the person threw the antlers as far down the road as they could.”
The pieces were gathered up, placed on top of the flatbed, and the Fillman’s were contacted.
“It is disheartening for our community to have something like this take place. The talent, and time to build this, and the dynamic of it being brought, only to be destroyed, it’s indescribable,” Henriod said.
White Pine County District Attorney Mike Wheable said sometimes people dismiss acts of vandalism as less serious crimes, something less than a theft.
“However, this important and beautiful sculpture that embodied so much of our local culture,” he said. “And is the product of local creativity, talent and years of sacrifice, could never have an accurate monetary value..it was priceless. This was disgusting, pointless, deeply hurtful to the artist and to our community.”
Ely Mayor Nathan Robertson said, “A long with the rest of the our community I am appalled at the destruction of 10 years of work in a thoughtless and cruel moment. Not only is this an incalculable loss, but to have it happen in front of our courthouse while our community, along with others in the Great Basin, are continuing our 30 year battle for our water resources and our future is truly a black eye for our community as a whole.
“We should be better than this. Vandalism has been on the rise in Ely and the surrounding communities and it’s past time we find and address the root of the problem. I am personally putting up a $500 reward to anyone who comes forward with information that leads to a conviction. Any other community members wishing to contribute may contact Ely City Hall.”
Henriod noted that other private individuals in the community have approached him to provide reward funds as well. “We are acting up on this very swiftly, and we want to apprehend the person that did this, as soon as possible.”
There is no doubt a sense of outrage in the community. Much of it being displayed on social media, and Fillman mentioned that his phone has been ringing non-stop. Several social media posts resonated the same words, that the community stands behind Fillman and his family in both his profession and art.
Wheable said, “We care profoundly, and will not let this go. We as a community need more expression of creativity and culture.”
Fillman notes the main antlers for the Elk cost in the upwards of $3,000. The art had been posted online for sale, with a price tag of $35,000. Fillman had a potential buyer from Oregon who was due to travel out here in a few weeks, to look at purchasing the work of art.
“This behavior is most certainly felonious. I encourage anyone with information about this crime to contact the sheriff’s office so that we as a community can denounce this behavior and seek some justice and restitution for the artist,” Wheable said.