Over winter break, University of Indianapolis senior studio art major Leah Diekhoff’s painting, titled “Felix’s Cave,” was taken from the chemistry department on the third floor of Lilly Science Hall. According to Diekhoff, she was informed by Chair of the Art & Design Department Jim Viewegh on Jan. 6 that the painting was missing and could have been taken at any time after the semester ended.
Lt. Brandon Pate of the UIndy police department said there was a 24-day period during which the painting could have been stolen, but that was not reported by the Art Department until 11 days after the painting was discovered to be missing, and a police report was filed on Jan. 22. Officers are working with both Diekhoff and the Art Department to attempt to locate the painting, according to Pate.
“Our investigator will go through several steps in trying to identify who had access to the building,” Pate said. “There’s such a long window, [so] it’s going to be hard to determine, but who had access, who would have been in that area? What motivation is going to come up for taking it? They would have passed several other paintings to do so, And several other opportunities. So as of the beginning, you’re looking at who had proximity and knowledge that it was there.”
According to Pate, the painting was accessible during the break due to UIndy’s promotion of an open campus, allowing the buildings to be fully open between semesters. According to Pate, there is no security camera footage and no reports of suspicious activity during this period, making it difficult to find any suspects. Pate said motives for stealing Diekhoff’s artwork could be monetary, opportunistic or collective.
“It’s just something that’s there and it’s a, ‘I really want that. I’m going to take it. No one’s watching,’ to sometimes, maybe it’s collectible. Or maybe it’s a piece that the person just really enjoys … [and] doesn’t know another way to get it, and would take it,” Pate said. “Usually, consumables, laptops, cell phones, things like that, those are for monetary type purposes. Opportunist crimes, typically out of a need.”
Diekhoff said she cannot think of anyone who has shown any interest in her artwork that would lead her to believe that the painting was stolen, but that it is possible someone may have seen value in the piece. She said her artwork will be in the Art Department’s Senior Showcase this semester, and she has concerns that more of her artwork could be taken.
Diekhoff said “Felix’s Cave” had been on loan to the Chemistry Department, and there were plans to purchase it to hang permanently in the building. Diekhoff said she also was emotionally invested in the piece, which is based on a creative writing work of hers.
“It was based off of a novel I had started writing in one of my classes before, and I’m a huge fan of reading and writing young adult fiction,” she said. “And so I had based the painting off of a scene that I had written for the book, and this book was the most thought out one I had done before. So I was very connected to it, in that sense that it was connected to me in more ways than just painting a scene of something.”
Pate said it’s important for UIndy students and staff to be aware of what happens on campus, never hesitate to report any suspicious activity and not be afraid to get involved if they see something.
“Our biggest asset that we have is every single member of the UIndy community, because they’re the eyes and ears of what happens. So we rely heavily on that. If you see something, let us know,” Pate said. “We can only investigate as well as the information that we have.”