Art City pleads for return of digital archive stolen in Boxing Day break-in

A priceless collection of archival material was stolen from Art City Wednesday morning after the not-for-profit community art studio was broken into.

Had thousands of photos and documents from non-profit art studio's 20-year history

Art City was broken into overnight on Christmas, when thieves made off with thousands in equipment and the organization's digital archive. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

A priceless collection of archival material was stolen from Art City Wednesday morning after the not-for-profit community art studio was broken into.

Managing director Josh Ruth said thieves took "basically anything that wasn't tied down" from Art City's digital lab, including several digital cameras and a scanner.

The organization, based in Winnipeg's West Broadway neighbourhood, is not overly concerned with the pieces of equipment that were taken, as it's all replaceable, Ruth said.

What they are concerned about, however, is a digital backup drive that was taken which contains thousands of photographs and other records of Art City's 20-year history providing after-school art programs for youth.

"Our organization has been around for 20 years. We've seen kids come up through the program and come back after years and years as adults and with their own kids, so it means so much to have access to those records," he said.

Will accept return 'no questions asked' 

The incident has been reported to police, while Art City staff are trying to get the word out in the community and to the pawn shop network in Winnipeg in the hopes the archive will turn up.

They are offering a cash reward, and will accept the return of their archive "no questions asked," Ruth said.

"We're talking on a lot of information that is vital for us to have and really not of much use to anybody else," Ruth said.

Though there are bits and pieces of the organization's records elsewhere, the digital archive was the most comprehensive collection they had, Ruth said.

"A place like Art City, it's not just about making art, it's not just about feeding hungry bellies, it's also about creating a sense of belonging and a sense of ownership and pride in your community," Ruth said.

"And the photographs the documentation of the kids participation at Art City is incredibly valuable for creating that sense of belonging and maintaining it."

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