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$500,000 statue given to Goodwill going back to donor

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For months, Dennis Pastrana kept Vanessa-Helena-Katharina-Landegger inside a cage bolted to the Miami warehouse's floor, a drape over the metal bars.

But the thin ballerina was so beautiful, he said, that he visited her constantly, all the while knowing he would soon let her go.

She was, after all, a 2 ½-ton bronze statue that once sold for $500,000. But Pastrana, Goodwill South Florida's president and CEO, didn't know that at first.

In fact, at the time, the investment firm that donated the statue in May didn't know its value, either.

``We could have sold it quietly,'' Pastrana said Wednesday.

But Goodwill didn't. Instead, it reported the find to the company, which had asked to remain anonymous.

The sculpture, of an 11-year-old dancer staring at her new ballet shoe, had arrived at the Goodwill warehouse at 2121 NW 21st St. without incident. But the nonprofit agency's staff wondered why the donor so easily parted with a piece by famed sculptor Sterett-Gittings Kelsey.

The ballerina, made in 1985, was one of 10 that ended up around the world: One went to the McDonald's Corp.; another to the Hakone Museum of Art in Tokyo; yet another to Georgetown University.

Each piece portrayed a young girl delicately holding onto a chair, two bows in her intricately detailed hair and elaborate lacing at the edges of her dress.

Goodwill offered to return the sculpture to the firm, and the firm accepted. It will go back Thursday, according to Goodwill's staff.

Keeping it would have been unethical, Pastrana said.

``It would be like blackmailing them. This is a story about honesty,'' he said.

The sculptor, who was notified of the mix-up, said she thought the situation was amusing. Still, she expressed displeasure at the outcome.

``Too bad it goes back to someone who doesn't even know what he had,'' she said from her home in Roxbury, Conn.

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