Friends, family plea for return of late Red Deer artist’s stolen painting
CBC Edmonton and CBC Calgary have teamed up to open a pop-up Red Deer office to help tell your central Alberta stories. Reporter Heather Marcoux brings you the latest from Red Deer and the surrounding area. Story ideas and tips can be sent to [email protected]
For eight years, Red Deerians have been fascinated by a painting on the alley door of the Dose coffee shop in the city center. A woman’s colorful portrait is a common background on Instagram photos, a place everyone knows.
The image was created in 2013 by Red Deer artist Bronson Wilson. A year later, Wilson died of cancer at the age of 27.
Last Monday, someone unscrewed the painting from its mount at night and the staff found the door empty that morning.
“It was just so shocking that someone was able to take it off and that they wanted it so badly to take it away from everyone else,” said Sydney Schur, co-owner of Dose who Wilson knew. “It’s very, very sad.
“We were very broken. And people get right away – people who would say, ‘I was there when this was painted’ or ‘I’ve been friends with Bronson since I was a kid’. All of a sudden, people were just overwhelmed that it was gone would be. ”
One of Wilson’s two siblings, Demi Wilson, says she always understood that street art, her brother’s preferred genre, is not meant to stay forever and that public art is sometimes painted over or destroyed.
Demi Wilson looks at a portrait of her late brother Bronson. The mural was painted by Red Deer artist Jesse Gouchey. (Heather Marcoux / CBC News)
This situation is different, she said.
“In a case like this where it’s been taken from us, of course we’re going to get up and say this is really important to us,” she said. “And it’s really important to the church. It’s been here for eight years and it should stay here.
“We just want it to go back to where it is at home.”
Downtown Red Deer cared about Bronson, who based the portrait on an Internet image of a woman he didn’t know but infused with the energy of a woman he was in a relationship with, Wilson said.
The painting is the result of layers and layers of stencil, a union of the unknown and the intimate, she said.
The mysterious portrait has attracted many admirers over the years, but no one has tried to remove it.
Sydney Schur and Demi Wilson discuss the theft of the painting that hung outside of Can for eight years. (Heather Marcoux / CBC News)
Schur recalls when Bronson Wilson sat down with can co-owner Rolland Forsland and came up with the idea of painting the picture over coffee.
For Schur, the painting serves not only as a memorial to Bronson, who also commemorates fellow artist Jesse Gouchey in another piece of street art, but also as a reminder of the spirit of community and collaboration in downtown Red Deer.
Schur’s message to the person who painted the picture is simple.
“We don’t care why you took it or what it’s about; we just want it back. I’m not going to get you arrested or whatever; we just want it back.”
Wilson’s sister says the family is planning a financial reward for returning the painting. She hopes to be able to walk past Dose in the future with her two year old and show them how much the uncle they never met meant to Red Deer.