TR Chytka Bronzes Stolen in Las Vegas |

TR Chytka Bronzes Stolen in Las Vegas

By Kaycee Monnens for Tri-State Livestock News
The artist’s first edition self-portrait, which was among 20 bronzes stolen from Chytka’s pickup near the South Point in Las Vegas. Courtesy photo

Twenty TR Chytka bronzes were stolen near the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas on the night of Wednesday, Dec. 30th. Chytka’s locked pickup was parked at the Grandview Hotel, and inside were 19-20 bronzes that were set to be part of his display at the trade show in the South Point the following day. Among these bronzes were many limited and first edition sculptures, including a first edition self-portrait of the artist.  

TR “Tony” Chytka is the well known western sculptor from Belle Fourche, South Dakota. His pieces are featured in downtown Belle Fourche; at Express Ranches in Yukon, Oklahoma; at the Casey Tibbs Heritage Center in Fort Pierre; and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. He is also honored with the task of creating trophy bronzes for the PRCA Awards Banquet, such as for the Announcer of the Year, Barrel Man in the Can, Stock Contractor of the Year, and so on. Fortunately, this year’s Banquet was a few hours before the robbery, so the handful of trophy bronzes were already awarded and not among the stolen items.  

“It takes a long time to get that kind of inventory gathered up,” says Chytka’s son, Tucker. “It’s a long process. To make one bronze from scratch, it could take six to eight months up to a year.” When he discovered the robbery, TR Chytka immediately contacted security, but was told that they were short-staffed and the camera footage would not be ready until the next day. When calling the police, Chytka was reverted to an automated system, due to the non-violent nature of the crime. He then reported the theft to insurance, who told him that the payout would only amount to around $1,000. “He was feeling really, really helpless,” says Tucker.  

Financial loss aside, the sentimental and emotional devastation cannot be measured. “My dad always says it’s his way of telling a story,” he says. Each piece truly has a part of him, with his name carved into the bronze, and the underside signed, “Cowboy to Cowboy.” Very few are reproductions, and most are one of a kind. 

A homeless man witnessed the crime, approaching three “kids” in the act of the theft. When asked what they were doing, the perpetrators said, “This is our folks’ rig.” Having seen Chytka park the vehicle and knowing something was wrong, the witness went to get security, by which time the three burglars had gone. This is the only lead so far.  

Worst of all, Chytka was left with no inventory for his booth during the 10 days of the NFR. He began packing his things to drive back to South Dakota before the rodeo had even started. However, due to the Facebook post Tucker made on his father’s page detailing the event, there was a huge amount of attention garnered, and TR’s friends and family decided to gather Chytka bronzes from their own personal collections so that the trade show display could still happen.  

Tucker says that his cousin, Cody Chytka, helped him to organize the effort. TR’s brother Gary Chytka and friend Gabby Bush volunteered their bronzes right away. Kevin McPherson offered some limited editions; Scott Peterson sent up bronzes from his second home in Arizona; and Juan Garrett who has the “largest collection of Dad’s bronzes I’ve ever seen” didn’t hesitate to send on those pieces to help his friend. Tucker asked for time off from his job at Scott Peterson Motors, and his boss, Jim O’Byrne gave him a pickup to drive down there. As of Friday, Dec. 2nd, Tucker and his uncle Gary are en route to Las Vegas to “make sure my dad gets the showcase that he worked so hard for. My dad would’ve done the same for me or for anybody,” he says.  

That Facebook post was shared over 3,000 times in four hours, all over the nation, but most helpful was that it gained the attention of Las Vegas locals, who passed it onto someone in the Las Vegas Police Department. The case now has a higher priority and is being actively worked on. Additionally, the Facebook business page, TR Chytka Bronzes, gained over 1,000 followers in one day. “God does have a plan, so I’m thinking that this might’ve been a blessing in disguise, and we’re going to make sure it happens,” Tucker says.  

While the Chytkas remain hopeful that the stolen bronzes will be found, they feel most grateful for the support. “It says a lot about the rodeo community, Belle Fourche, and South Dakota,” Tucker says.

The artist’s first edition self-portrait, which was among 20 bronzes stolen from Chytka’s pickup near the South Point in Las Vegas. Courtesy photo
TR pictured with Clint Johnson and the sculpture of him outside the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center Museum.
TR Chytka’s bronzes are well known in the western world, being featured in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, downtown Belle Fourche, South Dakota, and more. All photos courtesy TR Chytka
TR works on a large project. Courtesy photo
TR works on a large project. Courtesy photo