Two University of Kansas (KU) students publicly apologized for stealing a panel from Native Hosts, a work by Edgar Heap of Birds that was installed in front of the school’s Spencer Museum of Art, according to the University Daily Kansan.
The work, which was installed outside the museum in 2021, consists of five signs, each with the word “Kansas” written backward at the top and the name of a Native American tribe that first occupied the land printed forward underneath.
On September 4 of that year, four of the five signs were vandalized, and the fifth was stolen.
Shortly after the incident, the KU Public Safety released images of the two suspects, and the stolen panel was returned.
On December 10, more than a year later, the two students who were charged with the theft, Samuel McKnight and John Wichlenski, stood in front of the Spencer Museum and apologized.
According to the Daily Kansan, Wichlenski first apologized to Heap of Birds, KU’s Indigenous students, and “anyone who felt the ripple effect from the situation.”
“There truthfully is not a second that goes by that I don’t unconditionally regret our actions and the damage that was caused,” Wichlenski said. Wichlenski added that neither he nor McKnight stole the work out of malice, but rather out of a “naive and selfish desire” to use it to decorate their apartment.
The panels were originally created for the Spencer Museum’s 2019 exhibition “The Power of Place,” which was curated to highlight works by KU graduates.
During Art Basel Miami Beach, a version of Native Hosts was presented in K Art’s booth, which was chosen by ARTnews as among the best presentations at the fair.