Stolen art leaves authorities silent

Liz Hickoks View From Alcatraz is one of two pieces by the artist recently stolen from the DVC art gallery. Hickok specializes in creating colorful gelatin models of San Francisco architecture and photographing them. (Liz hickok)

Liz Hickok’s “View From Alcatraz” is one of two pieces by the artist recently stolen from the DVC art gallery. Hickok specializes in creating colorful gelatin models of San Francisco architecture and photographing them. (Liz hickok)


A violent break-in of the DVC art gallery and theft of two artists’ work in February was kept a closely guarded secret for two months by police, faculty and managers.

Gallery director Arthur Scott King, as well as many art department teachers and staff, still will not speak on record about the incident. And Lt. Tom Sharp, of district police services, refuses to reveal even basic information, saying it is “an open investigation.”

The break-in occurred over the Feb. 9-10 weekend of a month-long group show, “Places Between,” scheduled to end Feb. 15. The gallery was closed at the time.

An unknown number of thieves gained entry by drilling through the lock after apparently being unsuccessful in their efforts to bash down the door.

They stole two pieces of artwork by Liz Hickok and one by Desiree Holman, along with two computers, one of which was being used to show a piece of video artwork.

King and art department chair Michele Krup discovered the break-in on Monday, Feb. 11. Later that day, King sent an e-mail to all DVC employees, saying the gallery show, “Places Between,” had been closed early, “due to circumstances beyond our control.”

Krup recently agreed to share details of the break-in after being contacted by an Inquirer reporter.

“The doors were shut, and the lock was drilled out with a drill,” Krup said, describing the damages she witnessed when first approaching the gallery. “The edges of the door were damaged by a hatchet or some other tool, and there were drill holes in the door.”

Building maintenance worker Paul Smith said he was called in to secure the area shortly after the break-in was discovered. He said there was a 6-inch split in the door, as though someone had tried to pry it open.

“When that didn’t gain them entry,” he said, “they drilled through the lock with a 3/16 drill bit.”

The doors were then boarded up with plywood for a week before a new door was put in to replace the one that sustained the most damage; the left-hand door was not replaced.

“We were devastated,” DVC President Judy Walters said. “It wasn’t just a break in; it was a violent destruction of the door.”

Since then, the art department has used its own budget allocation to buy and install a single, closed-circuit video camera. Prior to the theft, the art gallery’s only security measure was a lock on both the front and back entry ways.

Walters said a more extensive security system was not put in place, because the art building is in line to be renovated.

“We’re not going to put the money into it right now,” she said.

Desiree Holman, one of the artists whose work was stolen, is a part- time faculty member in the digital media arts department. She creates sculptures and then films them, making what she calls “video art.”

When the two computers were stolen, Holman’s disc was taken as well. The disc was part of a limited number of copies that made up an edition.

With the disc missing, the value of the remaining discs in the edition is lessened, Holman said.

“If it gets ripped off and gets published on YouTube that would have an impact on my ability to make a sustainable income on my work,” she said.

The other artist, Liz Hickok, had three prints from her “San Francisco in Jello” series in the group show. Two of the three were stolen.

Hickok said she was upset and sad when she found out about the theft of her work. But she said the prints in the gallery weren’t as valuable because she had not signed them.

“They were just for display,” she said.

Both artists said they were uncomfortable about discussing the dollar value of their stolen artwork.

Michael Alamaguer, interim dean of the applied and fine arts division, said all artwork is insured while it is in possession of the gallery. Claims related to the theft are currently pending.

He said the break in will have no effect on the gallery’s ability to hold future shows.

But Holman said in a phone interview with the Inquirer she is uncertain whether she would ever show her work at the DVC gallery again.

And Hickok also said she would only show here again, if she thought the security was sufficiently improved.