Mystery artist leaving gifts around town for lucky Yellowknifers

They're wrapped, anonymous, and labelled with a simple message: 'free art.' Yellowknifers have been reporting sightings of mysterious packages around town, and they're delighted.

‘I’m trudging along in the dark... [and] I see this little black and white, beautifully wrapped package'

An anonymous artist has been placing wood-burned portraits, wrapped and labelled as 'free art,' all around Yellowknife. (submitted by Sue Glowach)

One was perched on top of a bench. Another, on a snowbank.

Yellowknifers have been reporting sightings of mysterious packages around town — and they're delighted.

"I'm trudging along in the dark, in the cold, and here's this big snowbank. I see this little black and white, beautifully wrapped package sitting on top of the snow and I thought: 'Oh, somebody's dropped something!'" said Sue Glowach, recalling her walk to work last week.

This is what's on the back of Sue Glowach's mysterious package. She discovered it on her walk to work last week. (submitted by Sue Glowach)

When Glowach picked it up, she noticed a small label on it that said "free art."

"I thought: 'Well, I can use some free art this morning.'"

She unraveled the package from her office and was elated to find a beautiful piece of wood with a wood-burned etching of Mahatma Gandhi — the historical Indian figure known for his peaceful ways of protest.

'Whoever the artist is, I really want to say thank you, because you gave me such an uplift to my day,” says Glowach. (submitted by Sue Glowach)

She turned it around. On the back was an obscure signature in black permanent marker with "#31" scribbled on top.

"It really picked up my whole day and it made it worthwhile going back to work," said Glowach. "It was like it was meant to be."

'Thank you universe for the free art!'

However, Glowach isn't the first Yellowknife resident to uncover an unexpected gift. In May, Elenor Sturko was walking to work from the parking lot, near Somba K'e park.

Then, she spotted a suspicious package sitting on a bench near city hall.

It was another "beautifully wrapped little package" labelled as free art, said Sturko.

'I held it up to sky and I said, 'Thank you universe for the free art!'' says Sturko. (submitted by Elle Sturko)

She unwrapped hers immediately and saw a "gorgeous little portrait" of Audrey Hepburn.  

"I didn't know if maybe someone was making a video of watching people picking up free art, so I held it up to the sky and I said, 'Thank you universe for the free art!'" said Sturko.
Sturko and her son Henry. 'My son actually liked the picture so much that he kept it in his room all this time,' says Sturko. (submitted by Elle Sturko)

"Just talking about it right now is bringing a smile to my face," she said, adding her son loved the piece so much, he kept it in his room.

Are these sequential? Are there more out there that people have got?- Sue Glowach

The back of the hand-sized plank of wood was labelled "#23," in a similar fashion to Glowach's piece.

"I'm wondering, are these sequential? Are there more out there that people have got?" said Glowach.

Unsolved mystery ok

Sturko, who used to work with the RCMP in Yellowknife, said she never questioned the incident.

"I really didn't look deeper into unwrapping any mystery. I just took it for face value, free art," said Sturko. "I told a few people about it and they were like, 'Oh, weird.' They asked themselves, 'would [they] pick up a package [they] just found, and would [they] open it?'"

"Maybe that's part of the expression that they wanted to make, the gift in itself is maybe a piece of performance art," she said.
Glowach keeps her portrait of Gandhi on her office desk. (submitted by Sue Glowach)

Glowach says that although she's curious, she respects the anonymity of the artist.

"I'm not interested in pulling anybody out who isn't ready to be out.

"Whoever the artist is, I really want to say thank you, because you gave me such an uplift to my day," said Glowach, who placed her mystery art on her work desk, right by her phone.

"To the artist, if you are listening out there, thanks again and keep on doing this because it's definitely appreciated," said Sturko. 

with files from Joanne Stassen, Loren McGinnis

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