Paintings stolen from Nepean gallery

Margaret Chwialkowska says she was told on Sunday that a pair of canvases she was displaying in the Atrium Art Gallery Ben Franklin Place on 101 Centrepointe Dr. have disappeared.

Artist said she fears she will never get them back

Margaret Chwialkowska says the city and security companies need to work together in the future to prevent more stolen art. (Margaret Chwialkowska)

Two paintings by a local artist have reportedly been stolen from a City of Ottawa art gallery in Nepean. 

Margaret Chwialkowska said she was told Sunday a pair of canvases she was displaying in the Atrium Art Gallery at Ben Franklin Place had disappeared.

The only thing left was the wires where they hung.

"It's very hard to part with a painting on a regular basis, but to lose the paintings this way it was heartbreaking," Chwialkowska said.

Margaret Chwialkowska fears she may never see her paintings Spring Reflection, at left, and Amber Reflection, at right, after they disappeared from the walls of the Atrium Art Gallery at Ben Franklin Place in May 2017. (Margaret Chwialkowska )

Security guards noticed the paintings missing last Thursday, she said, but she didn't find out until a friend saw their empty spots on Sunday — three days after they had first been noticed missing.

"I immediately went to the gallery and I saw the empty wall … I was in shock and disbelief," she said.

The missing artwork is worth $2,325.

Chwialkowska, who loves to paint Ottawa's nature scenes, said she fears she will never see the paintings again.

Security cameras don't monitor the gallery

"The city is reviewing the incident and site security protocols," Dan Chenier, general manager of facility services said in an email on Thursday. 

On-site security had alerted the city about the missing paintings on Monday, he said.

The gallery has security cameras, but Chwialkowska was told they are not pointed at the gallery. They only monitor the exit doors.

The city told her that they will be looking at the security footage and asked if she had any suggestions on how to improve security.

'At our own risk'

She said the municipality has lacklustre communication with the security teams and that they should install secure hanging systems for the art.

Artists who hang their work at the gallery must insure the paintings themselves, which Chwialkowska says most artists can't afford.

"The city said we were hanging the paintings at our own risk," she said. But she said artists in Ottawa have so few venues she felt the need to take the gamble. 

Ottawa police said Chwialkowska has filed a report and the matter is under investigation. They were unable to provide more information.

The display is managed by the Nepean Fine Arts League and opened to the public on May 18. 

With files from CBC's All in a Day