Case of the missing giraffes closed - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Case of the missing giraffes closed

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Posted: Friday, May 12, 2006 11:51 am | Updated: 3:47 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The mystery of the missing giraffe signs has been solved. Irida Sangemino, co-owner of Irida’s Giraffe Museum in Chandler, contacted the Tribune in March asking for help.

Two of her hand-painted giraffe signs had been stolen from her front yard.

She didn’t want to press charges. She just wanted the signs returned so she didn’t have to spend the money to make new signs. One of the stolen signs had the museum hours and the museum’s phone number, with a giraffe, while the other stolen sign touted the free admission, between two giraffes.

Because the museum doesn’t charge admission, Sangemino and her husband, Joe, are on a tight budget.

The Tribune ran a picture of one of the signs a couple days later, with a caption asking that anyone with information call the museum.

The same day, Sangemino got a call from Basha High School assistant principal Peter Beskid. The school is less than a mile down theroad from the museum.

It turns out the school custodians found the giraffe signs on top of one of the buildings.

Beskid said at the time they found the signs they had no idea who they belonged to, so Beskid told the custodians to throw them away.

One custodian instead took the signs home because his child likes giraffes. However, when Beskid saw the picture in the paper, it all clicked.

Since he thought the signs had been thrown away, he thought it would be good for the art class to make new signs for the museum.

But after the custodian who took the signs home had heard that they had been stolen, he brought them back to school.

“We were really happy that rather than starting from scratch we were able to locate the giraffes,” Beskid said.

One of the signs was returned to the museum without any damage. The other sign unfortunately had the giraffe’s head broken off, so it was given to Toni McGraw’s art class for repair.

After the wooden giraffe head was screwed back on, the sun-damaged sign was given a giraffe face-lift.

Freshman Angie Kwon was given the task of repainting the sign, and the 15-year-old spent the last week in her beginning art class working on the extra project, putting her own special touch to the sign.

“I really haven’t painted something for like serious reasons,” said Kwon, who came to the school in March from Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee Foothills.

Kwon put a new nose and different eyes on the giraffe, changed the pattern on the giraffe’s neck and changed the proportion of the giraffe to laying down in a bed of grass rather than standing up. She also changed the stenciled words and letters on the sign to a jazzier, spiced-up version.

She put the finishing touches Thursday on the giraffe sign, and said she’s happy to have helped out.

“Yeah, it’s actually kind of cool,” said Kwon, who usually sketches her art. “Now I found out I like painting because I did this.”

McGraw said it was a good project for Angie because as a new student it was a good way to assess Kwon’s art level and learn more about it.

“Just the variation in the grass, it tells me a lot when I see this,” McGraw said. “I think it’s lovely. I hope they like it.”

Beskid and McGraw both are happy the situation turned into a positive one. And so is Irida Sangemino.

“I’m just very happy that I got my signs back,” said Sangemino, who will pick up the repainted sign today. “I’m glad that we got the high school involved and the students were so positive about it in helping me out.”

But this time she’s having her husband cement the signs into the ground. Just in case.

Irida’s Giraffe Museum

Where: 24039 S. Val Vista Drive, Chandler

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday

Cost: Free, groups of 10 or more should call in advance

Information: (480) 895-5440 or

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