British Columbia

Art theft from Vancouver church shocks local fabric artists

Two Vancouver-area fabric artists are reeling after a number of their expensive works were stolen from a Vancouver church.

'People are just shocked that somebody would steal artwork — so many pieces — and from a church'

Karen Johnson's Alberta Poplars is one of nine quilts that were stolen from a show at the Vancouver Unitarian Church at West 49th and Oak. (Karen Johnson)

Two Vancouver-area fabric artists are reeling after a number of their expensive works were stolen from a Vancouver church.

Katie Stein Sather and Karen Johnson arrived at the Vancouver Unitarian Church on West 49th Avenue Sunday to prepare for a public reception, only to discover nine of their art quilts — about half the installation — had been stolen right off the walls. 

The thief may have cut the quilts right off the metal rods used to hang them says Stein Sather. (Karen Stein Sather)

"We were both absolutely stunned," said Johnson, who estimates the total value of the stolen quilts to be around $6,000. "It was very difficult yesterday, with people coming in and having to tell them more than half the show was gone."

Stein Sather says she fears the works have been damaged because the hanging rods which run through sleeves built into the quilts were still in place on the walls. 

"We wonder if they took a knife and sliced them off," she said. "They also took the book of descriptions and price lists which really makes us think they will try and resell them."

Katie Stein Sather is one of the two fabric artists who had work stolen. (Katie Stein Sather)

Johnson, who has won national awards for her work, says it takes at least a hundred hours to complete each piece.

Parish minister Steven Epperson says the Unitarian Church of Vancouver is a bustling place with a history of staging fine art shows. He doesn't know how the works could have been stolen but admits, in hindsight, they may be too trusting of people. 

"I think there's some desperate people out there and if they see an organization that is vulnerable they'll exploit it," said Epperson.  "There's this biblical verse that says 'wise as a serpent and harmless as doves.' Perhaps we need to be wiser and not overly optimistic about human nature." 

Karen Johnson, creator of this quilt entitled Mud Bay, estimates the stolen art to be worth almost $6,000. (Karen Johnson)

Epperson says the church will be improving its security and it is looking into whether insurance will cover the loss. 

In the meantime, Stein Sather has posted pictures of the stolen art on Facebook. 

Johnson is hoping the thief or thieves will have a change of heart and return the stolen pieces. 

"People are just shocked that somebody would steal artwork — so many pieces — from a church," she said.