Social media helps recover payment for stolen painting

Posted: Updated:
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- A Flagstaff community rallied through Facebook to recover a stolen piece of art, after a painting by local artist Emma Gardner was taken off of a Flagstaff restaurant's walls.

"I felt accountable that it was in my care, and it disappeared,” said Tyler Christensen, managing partner of McMillan Bar and Kitchen.

You can see in surveillance video stills that there are three guys sitting in a booth, and one puts the painting in his backpack. But instead of filing a police report, Tyler Christensen, the McMillan Bar and Kitchen's manager took it to social media.

"I put up the post in the hopes that somebody would find it in the morning and return it and be like ‘Hey, sorry, it was just a joke,’” said Christensen.

The message was shared more than 8,000 times on Facebook.

"It kind of shocked me," said Christensen.

A few days later, two of the three involved showed up with $500.

"Both of them are featured in the picture. They're not the one seen putting it in a backpack, but they have since stepped up to do their best efforts to right a wrong which I applaud them for," said Christensen.

Christensen said several of the artist’s paintings are hung on the wall for sale.

$500 was Gardner’s asking price for the painting that was stolen.

“They chipped in and paid the artist for the work that's been missing," said Christensen.

Christensen said the two who gave the money told him they did not know what happened to the painting after the third person put it in his backpack, but Christensen said someone has seen a painting in town that looks like it.

“That it was hung from a tree. Someone noticed a painting that resembled the one. I don't know if it's the same one with a broken frame destroyed on the ground," said Christensen.

And although Christensen wishes he could have recovered the picture, "Everything is not set right, but at least there's some kind of resolution to it which makes me happy," he said.

The artist of the painting, Emma Gardner said she’s grateful to the restaurant for taking the issue to the people, and she’s touched by the community’s support.

Here is the restaurant’s original post on Facebook:

"Dear Thief,

On June 9th, 2014, you enjoyed cocktails with friends at The McMillan Bar and Kitchen on 2 West Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona. We hope you enjoyed your time with us, and the artwork of local Artist Emma Gardner which we had on display for First Friday Artwalk.

We enjoyed having you as our guest up until the moment you decided that the art we had on public display would look better in your private collection. I’m sure you were aware that this artwork is for sale, and could have been yours, all the artist and myself ask is that you fairly compensate the artist for their creative work.

Instead, you opted to crudely stuff the artwork in your backpack and remove it from the premises. I understand why one would covet this artwork, we did as well, which is why we put it on public display.

Dearest Thief, I do not know your identity, nor do I care to, what I do wish is that you will return this painting to it’s rightful place adorning the walls of The McMillan Bar and Kitchen where it will be available for someone to purchase should they wish.

Being a staunch supporter and defender of the arts, and serving my belief that everyone should have access to fine art: I offer you this framed image of you in the act of stealing in exchange for Emma Gardner’s painting. Until you return the art, this image of you will adorn our walls where her painting once hung.

Sincerely Yours,

Tyler Christensen

Managing Partner
The McMillan Bar and Kitchen"