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Local News

Artist retrieves $20,000 in stolen art

ELMHURST – After months of searching, Elmhurst artist Penélope Osio-Brown couldn’t believe it when a public goods auction company contacted her with images of her stolen artwork.

“It was very shocking,” she said.

After received the 13 pieces signed by Osio-Brown from the Kansas City Police Department in Missouri, they followed a standardized process to authenticate the work. Eventually, the company contacted Osio-Brown directly, but nearly nine months after the theft, she almost couldn’t help but think the worst.

“I thought maybe they’re found, but they’re all damaged,” said Osio-Brown.

Amazingly, they weren’t. The pieces arrived wrapped in bubble wrap and fully intact after police discovered them in a storage unit.

When someone broke into Osio-Brown’s trailer last September following a Kansas art show, it wasn’t the first time she’d had artwork stolen, but this time she sensed the criminals had little if any appreciation for art.

“I think, mostly I was sad because I didn’t think these people knew what was in the trailer,” said Osio-Brown.

The thought of her masterpieces ending up on eBay, Craigslist or worst of all, the garbage, led her to almost cancel her next art show that was scheduled for a week after the theft. Even with only half her usual inventory on hand and numerous assorted tools missing, her husband refused to let her give up.

“My husband encouraged me and told me, ‘you have to go on,’” Osio-Brown said.

So Osio-Brown, her husband and two daughters continued to show her work at art fairs, but all the while she searched the Internet hoping to retrieve her lost creations.

When CEO PJ Bellomo discovered the $15,000 worth of art had been stolen from Osio-Brown, he made a trip from the company’s Maryland headquarters to hand-deliver the abstract work last week.

“Penélope’s reaction, it was not about the money,” he said.

In fact, the artist admits she might hold onto a few of the recovered originals to remind her of their remarkable journey back home. A true artist, Osio-Brown said her work reflects what she sees, experiences and even fears in life. The returned pieces now tell an important part of her story.

“It’s been worth it,” she said.

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