The Boston area is home to arguably the largest and certainly one of the most famous unsolved art heists in history.
And now Bedford has our own mystery on our hands.
Last week, two original works of art were noticed missing from display in the Flint Room of the Town Center Building.
The Town Center is a high traffic building in town that houses the Recreation Department, Youth & Family Services, the Health Department, Council on Aging, Food Pantry, and other offices and spaces. It is attached to Kids Club, and adjacent to the Town Hall and the skate park in the town complex. The Town Center is a resource that the community is welcome to use seven days a week.
The Flint Room is a smaller meeting room on the second floor of the Town Center building with a seating capacity of 50. It is used by the town, organizations, and individual rentals for things like group meetings, vaccination clinics, presentations, workshops, classes, and small performances. Inspired by the bare walls and absence of exterior windows, the Bedford Arts and Crafts Society (BACS) began hanging artwork in the Flint room over a decade ago. They have received positive feedback on how the art adds character, culture, and something to look at in the room, as well as comments on the quality of the work by BACS members.
Two or three times per year, BACS community members will rotate the work on display in the Flint Room (as well as a similar display in the Council on Aging Computer room on the lower level of the Town Center). Artists, generally BACS painters, will drop off their art to be hung on chains attached to the room’s picture rail. An information card is attached to the wall next to the art. Each room serves as an informal gallery with around a dozen pieces of art at any time.
Judi Babcock, co-president of BACS, was at the Town Center Building last Thursday, Feb. 9 attending a Council on Aging (CoA) event. Following the CoA Encounter with Eleanor Roosevelt presentation, Babcock and another BACS member noticed that two pieces of artwork were missing from the wall in the Flint Room. The artwork information cards were still hanging on the wall, and the chains on which the artwork is hung were still in place, empty.
“Morning Walk” by Doris Smith and “Hopeful” by Kelly Flook had vanished.
Babcock’s friend wondered if someone had purchased the paintings – paintings in the Flint Room and CoA displays are available for purchase. However, the contact information for purchase would typically go through Babcock and she didn’t have knowledge of any recent sales. Babcock thought that perhaps the artists re-claimed their work, which had been hanging in the Town Center since October, for exhibit elsewhere.
The two works of art were not adjacent to each other. They had been displayed on two different walls with other artwork in between. Babcock mentioned both missing paintings were acrylic paintings on canvas and smaller – about 8×10 inches- small enough to be easily put into a bag and carried out of the building, also small enough to be put somewhere else and perhaps not seen. Babcock remembered one occasion where some art and chains from a wall were moved to a nearby utility cart and not rehung, likely from a group needing more wall space in the room.
Doris Smith, one of the artists of the missing paintings and long time BACS member, said she was surprised to hear about the incident “because the Bedford Arts and Crafts Society has exhibited art pieces made by their members for many years in that meeting room so those who use the room can enjoy the art. This was the first time that any of those works were found to be absent without an explanation.”
The morning the art was first noticed missing, Babcock took the information cards from the two missing spots. When she returned the next day to take photos to look around further and confirm the art wasn’t nearby she found that the mounting chains were also missing.
The Bedford Police Department was notified. Lieutenant Detective Scott Jones with the Bedford Police Department said that an investigation with a department detective is underway. The custodian in the building, the Health Department, Recreation Department, and Youth & Family Services offices have all been notified to keep an eye out for misplaced art or any additional art (or other property) going missing. The staff in the building is complying with the investigation and is not able to comment on the missing art.
BACS, a non-profit organization that started in 1956 has around 80 members involved in different modalities of art and crafts. The group offers opportunities to members and the community such as art programs, workshops, classes with the Rec Department, social events, a Bedford Day art show, and the galleries in the Flint Room and CoA Computer room.
Some of the artists on display have removed their work from the Flint Room since last week. Other artists have replenished a few of the empty spaces with larger pieces of art that might be more noticeable if they were relocated or walked off. “Having the art hanging in the Flint Room benefits everyone,” Babcock said.
Smith wondered “why those two pieces of art were taken and not others. Was it the location near the door? Was it that one had a heart in the composition and would make a good Valentine’s Day present?”
When asked what they would like to happen next, Babcock and Lt. Detective Jones agree that the best outcome is that the pieces of work are returned to BACS. Babcock suggests the work be returned to the Flint Room or the CoA. The art can also be left in the entry vestibule of the police station. Any information about the artwork can be emailed to BACS at [email protected]. Information that can aid in the investigation can be called into the non-emergency line with the police department 781-275-1212.