Hiking was how Rowan Fleming discovered the Finnian riverbox a couple of years ago, and hiking was how the 13-year-old Dublin resident came to find the artwork after it was reported stolen.
Dublin Arts Council officials April 24 announced the theft of "The Forest Witch and the Witless Fellow, Finnian," from Amberleigh Park, 4715 Vista Ridge Drive.
Columbus artist Sharon Dorsey created the piece, also known as the Finnian riverbox, in 2016 for $2,000. Riverboxes are small works of public art inspired by geocaching, an outdoor recreational activity in which participants use a global-positioning-system receiver or mobile device to find items, and letterboxing, which combines elements of orienteering, art and puzzle solving.
Alfred Fleming, Rowan's father, said he and his son didn't know what the Finnian riverbox was until they opened it up and looked inside while hiking together in Amberleigh Park a couple of years ago.
"It was really startling to see it the first time," he said.
Sometime after April 24, he was out hiking with his younger boys, 5-year-old Brady and 3-year-old Caden, when he noticed it was gone and figured it was being refurbished, Alfred Fleming said.
On May 4, Rowan rode his bicycle to the Scioto River to walk along the riverbank. About a hal-mile south of the riverbox's original location, he found Finnian along the bank.
It looked like a stump at first glance, Rowan said, but he noticed the bottom was bright blue and realized the riverbox was resting on its face.
"As soon as I flipped it over, I knew what it was," Rowan said.
Now that Finnian has been recovered, Dorsey will evaluate the riverbox and make plans for cleaning and minor updates, said Janet Cooper, the Dublin Arts Council's director of engagement.
"Although we don't have a timeline yet for reinstallation, we're very relieved that the sculpture was in good condition and look forward to returning it to the community just as soon as we're able," Cooper said.
Dorsey said she initially drew inspiration from the enchanting nature of forests to create Finnian.
"Forests have a magical sense about them, so I knew that I wanted to create a fantastical creature with a story tied to respecting our natural surroundings," she said.
When she heard Finnian was missing, she was in disbelief, Dorsey said.
"I still like to doubt if there was any malicious nature to him being removed from the site," she said. "The kid in me wants to believe that Finnian just wanted to be near the water for a while and used magic to take him to the river's edge."
She was overjoyed when she learned he was recovered, Dorsey said, and grateful to the Flemings for reporting their discovery of the riverbox to Dublin police.
"They are heroes," she said.