Downtown Kamloops art gallery closes doors after break-in, theft | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Downtown Kamloops art gallery closes doors after break-in, theft

One of three paintings stolen from Gallery 635 in downtown Kamloops on June 22, this one by artist Isabelle Faulkner.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Facebook

An art gallery in downtown Kamloops has closed its doors due to security issues after a break-in and theft last week.

Gallery 635, a private art gallery in the lobby of an office building at 635 Victoria Street had three paintings stolen overnight Wednesday, June 22.

Curator Deb Fong said she no longer feels safe keeping the doors open, and she’s not the only one.

Two restaurants and a beauty salon downtown will be shuttered by the end of June with owners citing a variety of reasons including increasing social issues like crime and drug use, declining foot traffic, staffing shortages and the lingering impacts of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Kamloops restaurant cites lack of staff, reliance on delivery apps for closure

Gallery 635 has been operating for about four years showcasing local artists, but does not have a full-time day attendant on site.

“It is sad and disheartening,” Fong said. “Prior to this people felt their art pieces were safe.”

Across four years of overseeing the gallery, Fong said she has become more nervous about entering the shop after hours to set up for shows. 

“When we started I would often park my car at the back of the gallery and go in that way,” she said. “But the last couple of years there have been people using drugs at the back door and one time one of them had a large tire iron in the their backpack so I started parking at the front instead.”

The theft was caught on surveillance cameras, with the thief dressed in a mask and wearing gloves.

“The (thief) rifled in his backpack and broke into a good quality lock on the back door,” Fong said. “They immediately went to three of the most expensive pieces and ripped them off their locked hooks on the walls, wearing what looked like rubber kitchen gloves, it was weird.”

READ MORE: Another long-term downtown Kamloops business closing

Fong said one piece was worth $1,300 while the others were priced at $800 each. Fong is baffled at the theft, with the video footage showing the perpetrator carrying three three-foot by three-foot pieces out the door.

“These local pieces are not the most valuable paintings available in the community, they are not Mona Lisas,” she said. “I don’t see how these are saleable. It doesn’t make sense. I highly doubt Kamloops has an underground art market.”

Fong said she was scheduled to show an artist in September this year and along with fellow contributing artists is looking for ways to reopen for the event.

“The artist’s paintings are really large,” she said. “There is no way someone can walk out with 10-foot by 12-foot paintings and the building owners have put installed new bars on the door.”

Fong said the gallery was a unique partnership between the building owners and local artists, one that made the building more inviting for tenants and contributed to the life of the downtown core.

“How long can downtown Kamloops survive if we don’t get a handle on these issues,” Fong said. “I don’t know how business operators can function when these social issues are so overwhelming.”

READ MORE: Decision to close McDonald's in downtown Kamloops two years in the making

The theft is under investigation, but RCMP were not immediately available for comment.

“I don’t think the police are optimistic about recovering the pieces.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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