EDGEWATER — Lydia Cash was one of over 120 artists from across the city to gather at last weekend's annual Edgewater Fall Art Fair to showcase her original works — but a thief who stole her paintings overnight left the artist "devastated," she said.
"I feel like artists especially understand my pain, to have your art taken from you like that is just an unreal feeling," Cash, 28, told DNAinfo Monday.
A painter, Cash brought a bounty of her "life's work" to the weekend-long art festival that lasted from late morning Saturday to mid-evening Sunday along Granville Avenue.
Cash's display was in a tent underneath the CTA's Granville Red Line stop. That's where she says she left her paintings overnight, as many artists did, with the belief four security guards would be roaming the grounds until morning. She left at 6 p.m. Saturday when the fair closed, she said.
But when Cash arrived back at her tent Sunday morning just 15 minutes before the festival was to open, she said nearly all of her paintings were gone — eight total.
Linze Rice details the theft and how police are responding:
She said her initial reaction to the empty tent was that one of the neighboring vendors had stored them for her in case of rain.
Quickly, she realized that wasn't the case.
"Most of the paintings were quite large so I'm baffled how someone could take them without being seen by a guard," she said. "I was, of course, devastated ... my art is my life's work, and those paintings were so special to me. I feel violated now, knowing that someone was able to just rip them away from me like that."
She filed a police report and said investigators were reviewing security footage from the Granville CTA stop, near where her tent was set up. As far as she knew, she said artists in surrounding tents didn't report much, if anything, missing, save for one woman who said a display shelf had been taken.
Officer Janel Sedevic, a News Affairs spokeswoman, said the art was taken from the 1100 block of West Granville overnight, and that Cash had valued her missing paintings at approximately $3,410.
No one was in custody as of Monday afternoon, but Monday morning Cash said she received a call from detectives who inquired more about the case and told her they'd be reviewing security footage soon.
She said she asked a festival worker how this could happen with four security guards on duty watching roughly three blocks full of valuable art.
She said she was told though four guards were originally thought to be scheduled, only two were actually there.
But Rae Ann Cecrle, founder and chair of Edgewater Artists In Motion, the organization behind the festival, said there was never a promise of four overnight guards, only two. Sometimes, four guards roam the block during the day, but "never" at night, she said.
Cecrle said artists know when they sign a vendor contract that they are liable for all of their posessions, and that the majority of artists either pack up or pack away their wares before leaving. She said they are allowed to bring their car up after the show and again early in the morning to load and unload.
"From what I understand, she left her tent just wide open," Cecrle said, adding she still "felt bad" about the incident. "Some people just don't want to take that effort. I can't imagine as an artist just leaving my paintings out there."
She said that while perhaps her organization could have emphasized more the security protocol in the planning stages for artists, she believed it was "common sense" not to leave one's art behind.
What was harder for Cash to believe was how the thief got away with so many large paintings, she said. Two of the paintings were 3 feet-by-3 feet wide, four of them were 2 feet-by-3 feet and two were smaller.
The larger paintings were heavy enough that Cash said she wouldn't carry them alone.
The paintings were also rigged to hang from a chicken wire fence display inside the tent, making it difficult and somewhat time-consuming to remove, Cash said.
Cash didn't let whoever stole her art define her weekend, she said. She grabbed a few small canvasses and got to work painting out her emotions live.
"I'd like to think that I made some of my best work today," she wrote on her Facebook page Sunday night.
Cash, who lived in Edgewater for two years before recently moving to the West Loop, said since sharing her story she's been overwhelmed with support from the artist community and others who have shown compassion in her time of crisis.
"I met so many kind people throughout the day, received hugs from quite a few strangers, and was blown away by people's response to help. Overall I've been completely overwhelmed by the response of people willing to help," Cash said. "I feel so incredibly cared for and can't thank people enough for their concern."
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