Art and artist reunite

A screengrab from the Juneau Arts Facebook page

A screengrab from the Juneau Arts Facebook page

A Juneau artist believed she would never see her first-ever carving again after it was stolen from a downtown art exhibit. Now, the carved mountain goat’s eyes meet her own across from her living room.

“I had really no hope,” artist Sheila Dyer said Friday morning. Less than two weeks ago, an alder mask Dyer spent a month creating went missing from the Juneau Arts & Culture Center.

[Cedar mask artwork stolen from the JACC.]

On Wednesday morning, the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council executive director Nancy DeCherney said she found the mask in a package by the JACC’s back door, with a note for the artist.

“I bought this from a street person after reading the story in the paper,” read the note that was written on a manila folder with a blue marker. “I want to remain anonymoos (sic) so I’m leaving it at the door for you I wish you the best.”

Dyer’s carving was part of a monthly exhibit from the University of Alaska Southeast. They think the piece may have been stolen just a day before the workers were taking down the exhibit on May 2.

Surveillance footage of the theft was not available because of a technical issue with security cameras at the JACC, DeCherney said.

Dyer said she was sure with so many online and discreet avenues for selling stolen goods she wouldn’t see her piece again. Market value for the carving, she estimated, was around $200, but to her it was priceless.

It was a community coming together and caring that made the return possible, Dyer said.

“I think the article in (Empire) paper was instrumental,” Dyer said. “Using those community resources for connecting with what’s really a city of people is what made this happen.”

Dyer said she guesses the person who stole the art may also be the person who returned it, despite what the note reads. Either way, she said she’s glad a piece she’s dedicated so much time to is back in her home, especially considering the string of art thefts in the community. Another carver Dyer knows had pieces stolen in December from an exhibit inside the Westmark Baranof Hotel. Those pieces were never returned, Dyer said.

At the JACC, DeCherney said a new security camera is on the way and she’s looking into a new surveillance feature for iPhones, too, which she said she’s glad to have but sad she even needs.

“It’s just disappointing to think we have to do that kind of stuff,” DeCherney said.

Despite what happened, Dyer said she still wants to create and art and share it with others, although she said she will probably not hang a carving in an open gallery again.

“I don’t think some small-minded person should be making determinations about how we about our lives,” Dyer said.

A police spokesperson could not be reached before press time to comment on the investigation. DeCherney said she’s not interested in continuing a search for the thief since the “damage has been repaired.”

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or paula.solis@juneauempire.com.

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