Security tightened after thefts at Three Rivers Arts Festival |

Security tightened after thefts at Three Rivers Arts Festival

Bob Bauder | Tribune-Review
Robert Walker, a painter from Boardman Ohio, said he had a sculpture stolen last week from a Colorado art show. He said thefts sometimes happen, but he’s never had anything stolen at the Three Rivers Art Festival.
Bob Bauder | Tribune-Review
Chicago painter Chris Jackson points out a painting in his tent at the Three Rivers Arts Festival that is similar to one that was stolen over the weekend. He characterized the theft as an "isolated incident."

Theft sometimes happens at art shows.

And when it does, it always hurts, because it feels like the thief stole a piece of the artist along with the work, said Robert Walker, who was selling original oil and acrylic paintings Monday from a booth in Gateway Center at the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Walker said the Saturday night thefts at the Three Rivers Arts Festival hit hard for the artists assembled for the 10-day show.

“When you sell something, you’re happy because you know someone wants it and is going to take care of it, but when someone steals something, you don’t know what’s going to happen to it,” said Walker of Boardman, Ohio. “I had something stolen last week in Boulder (Colo.), and I was totally bummed out. It’s like a little piece of you was stolen.”

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust characterized the thefts from three artists in Point State Park as “an unfortunate occurrence that is highly out of the ordinary” and has upped security in the market area.

The festival, which kicked off on June 7, continued Monday with festivities scheduled throughout June 16.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the organizer for the festival, said it has always implemented 24-hour security during the festival.

“Since learning of this activity, we have alerted our on-site staff, volunteers and security partners in the city to be on special lookout for these acts and have dedicated further resources to security in the Artist Market area,” the Cultural Trust said in a statement.

Anyone visiting the area who sees suspicious activity is urged to call 911 or alert the public safety team, which is located at a tent at the entrance of Point State Park.

Artists, including the three victims, told the Tribune-Review that security throughout the the Golden Triangle was heavy on Sunday. All said they typically leave work in their tents overnight and trust the festival organizers to keep an eye on it. They also said the thefts would not stop them from returning for future shows.

“You take precautions, but you hope something like this doesn’t happen,” said Eric Sturtevant, an illustrator from Warwick, R.I. “It’s something that happens, but I haven’t experienced it on this scale.”

Sturtevant said he takes his most valuable illustrations with him when he leaves in the evening.

Tom DiVittis, a Beaver photographer, said he depends on security to keep his pieces safe.

“I feel bad for like the guy next door,” he said. “Some of this stuff we have we can reproduce. His stuff is all hand-painted originals. He can’t replace it.”

Lex Covato, a Pittsburgh artist who paints portraits of celebrities, said she had about $1,200 worth of paintings stolen. Chicago painter Chris Jackson said he thinks the thieves accessed his tent from the back and made off with several large paintings worth approximately $3,575. Jackson and several other artists, who travel across the country to shows, said they were surprised the incident happened in Pittsburgh.

“I’ve been coming to this show for years and it’s pretty much an isolated incident,” Jackson said. “It’s pretty much 10 days of fun.”

Bob Bauder and Dillon Carr are Tribune-Review staff writers. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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