Winnipeg art heist turns local artist into super-sleuth
Cheney Lansard and Arlea Ashcroft dub themselves the ‘Art Recovery Action Force’ following the theft – and subsequent discovery – of Lansard’s work
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A Winnipeg artist found himself in detective mode on Tuesday afternoon when three of his pieces were stolen from the Exchange District.
Cheney Lansard has a number of paintings on display in the lobby of Creative Manitoba, and heard that three had gone missing around 4 p.m. Tuesday when the facility manager, Arlea Ashcroft, gave him a call.
“I immediately thought ‘Okay, let’s figure out how we can get them back’,” said Lansard. “[Ashcroft] was already trying to put the word out, and she had done some searching around to a few of the spots where they might’ve gone.”
Ashcroft had been chatting with a neighbour when she saw a man walking out of the building carrying several pieces of framed artwork, but didn’t think anything of it until a colleague asked her if Lansard had taken some of his work away.
“I said ‘Oh my god, no – I just saw it leave the building’,” she said. “So I threw my purse down and went running out trying to find the person.”
The thief had enough identifying characteristics that Ashcroft was able to provide a strong description of the man to her many contacts in the art community. Her first break came when she stopped at Cree-Ations and spoke to Bobbie Lee Proulx.
Just as Ashcroft had gone back to work and was getting ready to file a police report, Proulx gave her a call.
“She said she was on the bus and she saw the person at the corner of Mountain and McGregor by the bingo hall. So I called Cheney right away and said ‘Hey man, there’s been a sighting,’” Ashcroft said.
Lansard picked Ashcroft up, and the duo headed north on Main, eventually ending up at the Northern Hotel. After relaying information about the theft and a description of the perpetrator to the staff, it turned out that the man in question was known to the owner – and was “someone who they’re not too fond of”, chuckled Lansard.
The hotel owner took over, and struck gold when he phoned over to a nearby pawnshop to inquire about the stolen paintings.
“They were in Atlas Pawn, just a couple doors down. So we went into Atlas Pawn and they did charge me $60, so rightfully, I now own three of Cheney’s works for sixty bucks,” laughed Ashcroft. “I paid the fee, we got the work back – and it all happened a matter of about three hours from the moment we noticed it was gone until recovery.”