Disappearance of Pitt students' artwork befuddles

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In the Frick Fine Arts Building, home to the University of Pittsburgh's department of studio arts, it is not uncommon to find creative works hanging from basement walls.

But the disappearance of three such student works led the department in recent days to hang on the wall a poster with an unusual plea. Under the words "Stolen Artwork," images of the pieces are displayed along with this: "If you know where these artworks are, or if you have them, do the right thing -- return them to locker #81 in the basement of the Frick Fine Arts Building and use the provided lock."

It was unclear Thursday whether the culprit or culprits had taken the department up on its offer that included a promise of "no questions asked." A Pitt police incident log entry suggested the works may have been taken sometime during Thanksgiving break.

Amid the goings-on at a major research campus where tens of thousands of people converge daily, the whereabouts of art works that Pitt spokesman John Fedele said appear to have little monetary value might seem less than the greatest of whodunits.

Still, the thefts raised eyebrows in the department and leave open any number of possible explanations. Was it a prank? Did someone decide the prints were valuable enough to steal? Might somebody have settled on a way to hold down the cost of buying Christmas gifts this year?

"I just found it weird that people would steal paintings. Why would they do it?" asked Pitt sophomore Jordan Cromwell, 19, a fiction and Japanese major from Baltimore, as he worked this week in a basement studio inside Frick.

"I don't think it was a prank," said Pitt freshman Charlene Shin, 18, a history and philosophy of science major from East Stroudsburg. "But it doesn't really make me more concerned. I keep my stuff locked up."

Delanie Jenkins, associate professor and studio arts chair, referred all inquiries to Mr. Fedele. Neither he nor the police log specified the number of works taken, but the poster hanging inside Frick shows two works from a foundation design class and images from work in an etching class.

Ms. Jenkins told the student newspaper, The Pitt News, that studios in Frick were kept open during the weekend of the holiday break so students deciding to stay in Pittsburgh could use them for their work.

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Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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