N.W.T. artists 'disappointed' after alleged theft of 9 pieces from Alberta gallery

Eleven artworks were stolen — including nine by N.W.T. artists — during a break-in at its gallery in Edmonton, said the Alberta Craft Council.

Gallery says art stolen, equipment taken, building damaged during break-in

This carving, which was being sold for $3,200, was one of two John Sabouring carvings allegedly stolen from a gallery in Edmonton last week. (Alberta Craft Gallery)

John Sabourin laboured over Wolf Stalking for about a week. 

The roughly 30 pound stone carving needed to be envisioned, carved, shaped and meticulously sanded — with sandpaper as fine as 1,000 grit, the Dene artist explained. 

And then, one night last week, the wolf and eight other works by N.W.T. artists were suddenly gone, allegedly stolen from the Alberta Craft Gallery in Edmonton where they had been on display. 

"I was really disappointed and heartbroken," said Sabourin.

The wolf carving was being sold for $3,200 and wasn't the only piece of Sabourin's that was taken. A second sculpture, an eagle with an abstract base being sold for the same price had also disappeared, and a third — a raven sitting on a rock — was damaged. 

The Alberta Craft Council said in a post on Instagram they reported an early morning break-in to the Edmonton Police Service on Wednesday. On top of the 11 artworks that were stolen, "damage was done to the infrastructure of the building and equipment was taken," it read. 

The craft council said artists would be paid for their stolen art.

Shocked and disappointed

The pieces by N.W.T. artists were on display, for show and for sale, in an exhibition organized by the NWT Craft Council and NWT Arts, said the Alberta Craft Council.

Michel Labine said this stained glass snowshoe was one of two that were irreparably damaged during the alleged break-in. (Alberta Craft Gallery)

"It was an opportunity to get our work out there in a different market during COVID-19," explained Michel Labine, a Métis artist from Fort Smith, N.W.T., who said some some of his work had also stolen and damaged during the break-in. 

"My polar bear grub bag that I'd done and sent down there, that was made with polar bear and with bison hide, had been stolen and my two snowshoes had been recovered but they were both broken."

One of the stained glass snowshoes depicted a raven, while the other was a bison, said Labine. Both are likely "irreparable" based on the description of the damage he received. 

Labine said he was shocked by what happened, and disappointed. 

"The art will end up in somebody else's hands, that is not deserving. They haven't paid for it so they don't deserve to have it."