How Metro Parks Tacoma found new homes for historic sculptures
About Metro Parks Tacoma
Metro Parks Tacoma is an independent government agency that leads efforts to build a healthy, sustainable community. Metro Parks Tacoma offers a variety of experiences on its 2,905 acres, including zoos, pools and spraygounds, community centers and trails.
Once upon a time, molded sculptures of beloved nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters graced the Never Never Land walking park in Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park. Thousands of visitors would enjoy the attraction for nearly 40 years before it was closed in 2001 due to vandalism, theft, and decay. Metro Parks Tacoma placed the sculptures in storage. About half of the sculptures were lost in 2011, when an arsonist set fire to the storage room.
In 2021, Metro Parks Tacoma decided it was time to rescue the remaining sculptures from storage and give them a new home. The goal: to sell all sculptures and reach the appraised value of the collection—all sculptures were created by Hungarian-Canadian sculptor Elek Imredy—with proceeds going to support Metro Parks’ public art and historic assets.
Surplus Operations worked with Metro Parks Tacoma to prepare 24 sculptures for public auction. Through the state’s virtual surplus store, DES uploaded photos of all sculptures with their descriptions, including measurements and condition. Each item had a minimum bid. Metro Parks and DES collaborated on an outreach campaign that included social media, news articles and email to spread the word about this unique auction. The auction launched September 8 and concluded September 22.
Every sculpture sold far above the starting bid. In total, the auction raised $61,150 on behalf of Metro Parks Tacoma—nearly four times the appraised value of the collection. Over 100,000 people visited the auction website during the bidding period and the sculptures received over 1,000 bids. The most popular item, "Wolf," received 73 bids and sold for $6,600. "Humpty Dumpty, Seated" also sold for $6,600.
"No one expected the outpouring of interest or that we would almost hit four times the appraised value of the collection," said Chris Evans, Surplus Inventory Control Specialist for Department of Enterprise Services, which manages the virtual surplus store.
Now, two dozen sculptures that once graced Never Never Land at Point Defiance Park are now in the hands of their biggest fans.
"We’re happy to know the remnants of the Never Never Land collection are in the hands of people who care about these pieces, instead of sitting in storage."—Claire Keller-Scholz, Metro Parks Tacoma
"It was exciting for all the pieces to sell at rates well above the bid minimums, as it provides valuable resources to care for our historic assets and public art collection," said Claire Keller-Scholz, Planning and Asset Management Administrator for Metro Parks Tacoma. "We’re happy to know the remnants of the Never Never Land collection are in the hands of people who care about these pieces, instead of sitting in storage."