Nova Scotia

Karma chameleon: Artist forgives painting's thieves after one returns it face-to-face

Julianne Harnish, whose original painting was stolen from a Flipburger restaurant in Halifax in March, says the missing artwork was returned in person — so she forgives the culprits.

Return of painting stolen from Halifax restaurant Flipburger 'spoke to their character,' Julianne Harnish says

Julianne Harnish's painting was stolen off a wall at Flipburger, a burger joint on Argyle Street in Halifax. (CBC)

Julianne Harnish, whose original painting was stolen from a Flipburger restaurant in Halifax in March, says the missing artwork was returned in person — so she forgives the culprits.

"That spoke to their character," Harnish said, while standing next to the metre-plus psychedelic rendering of a chameleon who is apparently slurping from a bottle. "We're completely square now. I have absolutely no hard feelings at all to the person who dropped it off."
This painting, which stands more than a metre tall, was stolen on St. Patrick's Day.

Harnish's painting was stolen from the wall of the Argyle Street restaurant on St. Patrick's Day. When Harnish noticed it was missing, she took to social media to help solve the mystery of a theft she said felt like a "violation." The painting was worth about $600, and had sentimental value because she had painted it in front of a crowd at a bar in 2014.

Harnish said her social postings garnered more than 100 shares, and then a message from somebody saying they thought they knew who had it.

Next came an email from someone who said they had the painting.

"They apologized profusely for taking it," she said. "It was a group of people who were drinking on St. Patrick's Day, and they didn't realize it was an actual painting. I think that they thought because of the thinner canvas perhaps that it was a print or something like that.

"So they didn't really know the value of the painting, but regardless they shouldn't have taken it and they were really apologetic about it."

'They're pretty brave'

Harnish said she gave the young stranger — who she went out of her way not to identify — the option to drop it off at Flipburger, but instead he or she chose to drop it off to her in person.

"They're pretty brave, I guess, because not everybody would do that."

Harnish had originally wondered how they got it out of the restaurant without anyone noticing. But it turns out it was simply a matter of the day it happened: March 17.

Julianne Harnish works on a different piece as the chameleon looks on. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

"They just picked it up off the wall and walked right out, I guess," she said. "I don't think it was very stealthy."

The chameleon ended up in a cab and then in several different apartments. Though multiple thieves were involved, only one person returned the painting.

Harnish said she would have pressed charges if the painting hadn't been returned voluntarily, but now that it's been returned she doesn't want the crime to follow the people involved around.

They just need to learn one lesson.

"Don't steal things, I guess," Harnish said. "Even if you're drunk."