These masks by artist Noel Scott Pootlass were stolen recently from Bella Coola Wild Craft and Gallery (Facebook photo)

Thousands of dollars in Indigenous art missing after Bella Coola break-in

Masks, prints and a hand painted canoe are just a few of the missing items

The owner of Bella Coola Wild Craft and Gallery is hoping the public will keep an eye out for thousands of dollars in Indigenous art that went missing following a break-in to her business.

Kathleen Booth learned the arts and craft store, and gallery was a victim of crime Monday morning after a worker of the Cumbrian Inn who does a daily check of the shared space noticed the back door open and heard some noise.

She said he initially thought it might have been a bear although he had quickly realized that scenario made little sense when he had ended up chasing several potential suspects who had tried to make a get away from the building on foot.

“It’s very tied into what we seem to think that is an escalation of drugs that are coming into our valley, notably meth,” Booth said, noting there were a couple of break-ins within the community prior including the boats at the wharf.

“We see behaviours of people changing.”

With the suspects having made their way through the rear door of the hotel and breaching a variety of corridors by breaking through doors, Booth estimates at least $14,000 in art by a variety of artists including a hand painted jacket of a grizzly by herself is missing.

There is also approximately $2,000 in damage.

Despite being left devastated by the event and the COVID-19 pandemic adding to the woes, Booth said things can be repaired and fixed.

“Because the drive of the business is people over profit, it will continue.”

Booth started the fairly small arts and craft store at her home-based studio in 2012 as a means of providing residents affordable quality art supplies

It was just recently she held a soft-opening for the new location of the arts and craft store, as well as to celebrate the revamp of the art gallery she had taken over management of.

“We have a lot of artists in the valley, and there’s a challenge in small communities like this with drugs and alcohol and the nothing-to-do factor,” she said. “That’s a big part of what I do through the art store is basically to make a lot of supplies accessible and at an affordable price so that we can provide an option for people to spend Friday night in a different way.”

Since opening, Booth said within the last month she has heard from many young women who tell her they are making the choice to bead over drink.

She recalled how she came from a poor background in Quebec that was challenged even more when she chose to attend the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver and would dumpster dive to salvage supplies she could use for her art due to unaffordable rent.

“For me it’s always been about empowering people no matter what step of life I’ve been through,” she said. “My mother taught me to share my gifts, share my knowledge and always try to build people up in that journey.”

Knowing that some are unable to complete the thought process leading up to their actions, Booth added she will not let the acts of one or a few individuals represent the whole of the community she has grown to love since calling it home nine years ago.

“There’s many other people that are struggling with addictions that have great respect and in honor of those people we continue, and I’ll continue, to keep those people in the foreground,” she said. “It’s too easy to let one person destroy everything for everybody.”

Anyone with further information is asked to contact RCMP or Crime Stoppers.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

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