Thursday, April 19, 2007

City Impressions


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SOMETIMES BAD STUFF HAPPENS IN THREES. A couple days ago, I explained that I was doing the Austin Art Festival.
Friday night set-up came to an abrupt halt when a fast moving weather front with 75 MPH winds mangled both of my tents and destroyed my display. Luckily, I had not yet placed my artwork inside the tents. It could have been much worse. The wind could have happened the next night when all of my art was in my booth. The festival staff was terrific. They rushed in rental tents the morning after the wind so those of us who lost our tents could set up and do the festival. Everyone was very helpful.
Then, Sunday morning I arrived at my tent to discover that someone had been inside during the night. A check with the festival staff confirmed that in the middle of the night, two people had been caught red-handed, artwork in their hands, by a very sharp Austin police commander This, too, could have been a lot worse. The thieves could have gotten away with a large portion of my work. When they were caught, they already had four paintings down off the wall.”
It turns out that the head of finance and operations for the Austin Museum of Art and his wife have been accused of the nighttime burglary attempt.
I've ended this blog with a copy of the news article in the Austin newspaper about the attempted theft and the alleged culprits.
Event number three occurred Monday morning when I prepared to leave my hotel and return home. It was at this point that the valet turned a corner too tightly and put a large set of scratches and dents in the side of my brand new van.
I'm home now, exhausted, but upbeat. It’s really too bad. Austin is a wonderful place. It’s beautiful, and the people are friendly and very art-interested. Many of the people I spoke with were appalled that I had such a rough time in their town. I can’t say enough about how on top of the situation the police were, and the festival staff was great! I don’t blame Austin, and I’ll be back.
Here is the article about the attempted theft and the alleged culprits. This appeared in the Austin American-Statesman Newspaper:
Austin art museum official accused of trying to steal art
Incident happened late at night at annual arts festival.
By Tony Plohetski
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Thursday, April 19, 2007

Austin police Cmdr. Michael Jung was guarding more than $1 million worth of art for a downtown arts festival about 1 a.m. Sunday when he saw a woman he thought was acting suspiciously.

The woman was standing at the edge of Republic Square Park, where tents housed artwork for the two-day Austin Fine Arts Festival.

Police would later say they think she was keeping watch while her husband, a top Austin Museum of Art official, tried to steal paintings worth about $900 each.

Jung asked her what she was doing, according to an arrest affidavit. Looking for her car, she told him. Then Jung heard her say something in a foreign language that included the word "policía" ? Spanish for police.

Jung also noticed that a nearby tent housing the abstract paintings of California artist Nancy Eckels appeared to have been broken into ? a zipper opened, ties cut. And when he looked inside, Jung saw a man holding several paintings, the affidavit said.

The affidavit said the man dropped the paintings and fled.

Jung and other officers caught him after a brief chase, and investigators confirmed the man's identity a short time later: Nathan Sheppard, the finance and operations director for the Austin Museum of Art.

Sheppard, 37, and his wife, Alexandra Sheppard, 33, were each charged with burglary of a building, a state jail felony for which they could face up to two years in jail.

Nathan Sheppard also was charged with evading arrest.

Museum officials said Wednesday that Sheppard has been placed on administrative leave until further notice. He has worked for the museum for six years. Officials would not release his salary.

The Sheppards could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Shilpa Bakre, a museum spokeswoman, declined to comment about the arrest.

Jung said he thinks Sheppard returned to the park at Fifth and Guadalupe streets ? which was surrounded by chain link fencing for the event ? late Saturday after the festival closed for the day by showing special credentials to access an afterparty.

Jung, who has coordinated security for the festival for seven years, said art thefts are uncommon during the event, which this year featured about 200 vendors.

Officers began patrolling the park Thursday afternoon and stayed through midnight Sunday.

"We have a lot of cops there making sure nobody enters," he said.


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