Stevens Square Center for the Arts painting is stolen the night of gallery opening

Categories: Crime
Rachel Rolseth
Trish Brock climbed the steps of the Stevens Square Center for the Arts, a 5,500-foot gallery and studio space at 3rd Avenue South and East 19th Street.

Her eyes met a blank part of wall in the showroom where only the night before, on Sept. 7, friends and family of artists had gazed at a painting by Rachel Rolseth.

SEE ALSO: Artists Cope with Stolen and Destroyed Art

Brock, the director of the art center, sent off an email to Rolseth.

"I felt like I had just been kicked in the stomach," she recalls.

It's one thing to steal a Picasso -- there's almost something romantic about the high risk and massive profits to be had on the black market. It's quite another to steal from a local artist. But it happens more often than one would think.

Rolseth has a friend in North Carolina, she says, who loses a painting about once a year.

"He's just decided his work is worth a lot of money in the future, and time travelers have come back for it," she says.

All joking aside, one practical theory going around the art center is that the thief had attended the gallery opening and hid in one of the bathrooms. The last person to leave that night -- another artist -- locked the front door. The back door cannot be opened except from the inside.

Rachel Rolseth
Stolen from the Stevens Square Center for the Arts on Sept. 7.
There were no signs of forced entry -- only a single missing painting. As difficult as it is to stomach, Rolseth and other artists admit there's something flattering about your work being targeted.

Japheth Storlie, who rents a studio at the art center, suspects the thief wouldn't get more than a few hundred dollars for the painting on the street and would likely attract the attention of someone who knows Rolseth.

"The only thing that makes sense is that they wanted it for themselves," he says.

Brock, on the other hand, believes the thief is less of an admirer than a philistine. Literally speaking, Rolseth's painting, entitled "Shedding Skin," depicts a naked woman from behind.

"I really think it was a pervert," Brock says.

Gallery openings could become invite-only, depending on what the art center's members decide, she says. "We're at a cross roads about what to do."

In the meantime, the art center is raising money to help cover the cost of Rolseth's painting, which was 2-by-3 feet and priced at $800. Some of the proceeds may go toward installing security cameras.

"I've decided to laugh this off and roll with the punches," Rolseth says. "Whoever took it, that's your karma now."

Last week, Brock posted a flier with the picture of the painting outside the art center. That, too, has gone missing.

-- Email Jesse Marx at or follow him on Twitter at @marxjesse

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@ Erika, I am confused. If drawing nudes and being nude (to be drawn) is art and ok, then why is it not as ok to watch nudes in person at a striptease? Why isn't it ok if I wanted to see you nude and appreciate the human body in reality? Why should I watch nude artwork instead of nudes in flesh and blood?

Cheryl Pederson James
Cheryl Pederson James

The "thief" will never have peace of mind about this exquisite painting. May s/he have a conscience and return it!


Stealing is just plain wrong. A pervert could have taken a picture of the painting. It's very possible the motive was to steal and sell.


The nude has been a classic theme of artwork since the beginning of art.  Many of us who were fortunate enough to view the painting appreciated the beauty, elegance, and grace of it enough to desire to have it in our personal space - to see it on a daily basis.  We would have purchased it.  It takes a pervert to steal.


I have a point, it's just not in the correct forum. Some *male* artist in NY asked thousands of people to show up naked so he could draw them. And thousands showed up. That's what I had in mind.


Don't mean to blame the victim at all but I fail to understand why artists, who are supposed to be creative, fall back on painting naked women. And female artists should be more inclined to not objectify women.


@dogofdow You sir have never taken an art class or two. The purpose of painting or drawing a man or woman in the nude is to show the beauty of the human body. It is not at all exploitive as you suggested in your ignorant comment. The nude models I have drawn in my past college art classes CHOSE to pose nude and they got paid for it. They were very comfortable with being nude. If you can't see art in a nude painting/drawing, I feel sorry for you. I would strongly suggest taking a trip to Minneapolis Institute of Arts one day and try to enjoy the nude artwork there.



1. Victim blaming (I don't mean to blame the victim *but*, as in I'm not a sexist *but* or I don't mean to be an asshole *but* always means that what you are about to say is victim blaming, sexist, being an asshole, etc.);

2.  Inability to grasp the difference between subject and object;

3.  Presumed authority to dictate what women should and shouldn't be allowed to do

Leads me to believe that you

1.  Are a man;

2.  Are not an artist;

3.  Are trying to mansplain art and feminism to someone who is both a woman and and artist.

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