Robert’s column

Robert Barron column: Theft from artists has to stop

It concerns me that these types of incidents are becoming more common.

I’m not much of an artist myself, but I’ve always had the highest respect for those who are creative enough to use their imaginations to produce beautiful creations out of the most basic of materials.

I’ve always been intrigued by such grand masters as Michelangelo, who I believe once said he could see the image he wanted to sculpt out of the untouched stone; all he had to do was cut away everything else.

I can’t even draw simple stick men without difficulties, and could never stay within the lines like most of my peers when colouring when I was a child.

As a result, I’ve always tended to look upon artists as a special breed of people who should be nurtured and revered.

That’s why I find it so annoying that a very talented artist who lives and works out of the Cowichan Valley is forced to face ongoing difficulties with trespassing and theft over many years.

I first met Tyler Cochrane, who currently owns and operates Tyler Cochrane Chainsaw Carvings on Drinkwater Road, in 2016 when someone stole a valuable carved horse head and four small bear carvings from his yard.

I visited his home and studio and was amazed by the beautiful and intricate artistic creations of wizards, animals and spirits Cochrane carved from wood using chain saws that he had on display.

He told me at the time that a carved horse head, valued at about $1,200, and four smaller bear carvings, totalling more than $1,400, were stolen right out of his yard the night before.

Thanks to contacts in the community, the horse head was returned, but Cochrane never saw the bear carvings again.

I received another call from Cochrane last week; this time reporting that a large carving called “Wood Spirit”, valued at about $1,000 and already sold, was taken from his yard in the few minutes it took him to go buy a cup a coffee from a local store that morning.

Cochrane, who was understandably frustrated and agitated, told me that the incident was the fifth time in the last four months that he has had carvings, tools and thousands of dollars of other material stolen from his property.

It concerns me that these types of incidents are becoming more common.

In fact, earlier this week in Nanaimo, someone had the audacity to steal the “Rock Dragon”, a beautiful art piece created by Powell River artist Heather Wall, right from its perch in Maffeo-Sutton Park where it was on display as part of the city’s temporary public art program.

The Cowichan Valley and much of the rest of Vancouver Island are well known for attracting artists of all sorts to set up shop here.

When asked, one of the main reasons these artists say they come here is because the quieter lifestyle and fewer people allows for a much more safe and quiet setting for them to sow their creative energies.

It’s shameful that people like Cochrane, who add so much to the character of the Valley, are being targeted by thieves who either want to sell their art on the black market, or just keep the art secretly to themselves.

I fear that if this continues, local artists will pack up and move somewhere else. That would be a great loss for everyone.

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