The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Meadows art stolen

ELENA HARDING Staff Writer [email protected]

There is a thief invading SMU. The SMU Police Department has video of  a man stealing a projector and wandering the halls of the Owen Arts Center (OAC), looking for unlocked rooms.

SMU Detective Terry Trail said this man is one of the main thieves on campus, but his identity has yet to be determined.

Thefts are nothing new to the OAC, or to SMU’s campus. As the semester comes to a close, the OAC has reported five thefts or burglaries, which totaled $7,146. In fall 2009, there were eight burglaries or thefts, totaling $3,204. There were six reports in summer 2009, including damage, totaling $3,020. Spring 2009 reported four thefts, and one of the items was actually turned into lost and found. Door damages totaled more than $6,200.

Since Jan. 2010, the OAC has had approximately $1,000 more in theft compared to the same time last year. What’s the difference between last year and this year? Artwork is being stolen.

Specifically, artwork has been taken from displays. SMU Detective Linda Perez said it has been five years since art has been stolen from SMU.

Last month, on April 12, graduate art student Bernardo Diaz discovered his painting, “The Plan,” was stolen while on display. The 70 inch-by- 70-inch painting was hanging in the Pathway Gallery, located on the second floor of OAC as part of a weekend exhibit, March 19. Then the group decided to leave it up so more people would be able to see it.

However, before Diaz could take his work down, he left the country for an art program.  He said he did not worry about his painting because another student from the Student Art Association told him she took his work down and stored it in her studio. However, someone had already taken “The Plan” before she took his other work down.  Diaz found out his painting had been stolen when he returned to SMU April 12.

Diaz said that when someone takes art, that person is not only stealing the value of piece but the time and process that went into making it.

“This is the kind of act that creates a lack of participation amongst student artists,” Diaz said.

Diaz is not the only student artist whose work was stolen. Lauren Walker’s print “Reverie” was also taken from the Pathway Gallery. Like Diaz, her work was originally intended to be on display for a short time, and she said the Student Art Association asked her to leave it on display another week. When she came back a week later on March 28, it was gone.

Walker said she believes there are several factors that contribute to the thefts, which include her artwork. She said the building itself is like a maze, with hidden hallways that foster mischief. It is open to the public during the day, and she has never seen a security guard there.

Walker said she would display her work again if it were in a secure location. Although she said she moved past the feelings of violation and disappointment, she felt naïve for trusting people not to steal her work.

Adjunct lecturer Robin Eldridge, had an experience similar to those of Diaz and Walker. On March 27, her small bronze sculpture was stolen from the metal shop. Unlike Diaz and Walker, it was returned to her – April 19. She attributes its return to signs she posted, upon which she asked for its return because it was a gift for a cancer patient. She played the sympathy card instead of being aggressive, and that is why she believes it worked.

Michael Corris, chair of the art division, said he is considering an increase in security to combat what he calls ‘crimes of opportunity.’ He said the end of the semester gives thieves more opportunities to steal art because more work is on display.

He said he is considering adding more cameras in the area where the thefts occurred to increase security. He said $10,000 was recently spent to remodel the hallway for exhibitions, and he does not want people to stop using it.

Diaz said he has already spoken with the Student Art Association and recommended the space not be used for long periods of time or overnight.

Although most notably, the theft is not limited to artwork. Items ranging from projectors to personal items are also missing.

“The [OAC] is a goldmine for thieves. Classrooms are unlocked until midnight for students to study.” Detective Trail said.

Perez said people come into the buildings to find out where the least populated areas are. She said they walk around until their confidence builds and then they strike.

Perez said she has seen a pattern of projector thefts from other colleges in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex through crime listserv, an information-sharing program for police.

More to Discover