Thieves Nab Works From Artist’s Booth at Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival

Song of Heart by Cindy GrisdelaReston artist Cindy Grisdela hoped that her weekend at the Northern Virginia Fine Art Festival would result in sales of her brightly colored art quilts.

Instead, she wrapped up the weekend by filing a police report.

Some time between the show’s 8 p.m. closing on Saturday and the morning opening on Sunday, six works were stolen from Grisdela’s booth on Market Street at the Reston Town Center festival. The pieces ranged in value from $125 to $1,675, she said.

“I just would like the work back,” said Grisdela. “It means a lot to me.”

It also means a lot to her bottom line. Artists are in the midst of festival season. Grisdela said she has commitments for other festivals and will have to go with much less inventory.

“I am a fiber artist,” she said. “My process takes a long time. I just can’t make more work [in time].”

Grisdela describes the works on her blog:

When I last saw them as I closed up my tent last Saturday night, all of the pieces were mounted on artist’s canvas painted black. Geranium, below left, is 16″ w x 12″ h. Song of the Heart, below right, is 20″ h x 20″ w. City Streets, at the bottom of the page, is two panels from a triptych and each panel is 20″ h x 20″ w. They are all signed on the back of the canvas and my name, Cindy Grisdela, is free motion stitched onto the front of each piece.

The two other pieces were smaller. Peacock Drive is 12″ x 12″ in pastel colors. It has an improvisational stripe including two small house shapes running horizontally, an upper blue border and a lower green one. Tropicana is 8″ x 8″ with an orange-red central block and blue borders.

Grisdela has notified festival organizers and the Fairfax County Police.

Geranium by Cindy GrisdelaFestival organizers strongly recommend that artists take their works home with them at night, says Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE) Executive Director Holly McCullough. The booths zip up but they do not lock. GRACE pays for FCPD officers to do security overnight by the pavilion and to rove among the 200 booths around the town center.

McCullough said GRACE does not have liability for theft as it would be impossible for the nonprofit to obtain an insurance policy large enough to cover the value of all the works. Artists are encouraged to carry festival insurance, she said.

“This is an extremely distressing incident,” said McCullough. “Theft is not something that is common at the festival.”

Grisdela, who has been on the festival circuit for three years, said most artists do not remove everything from the booths.

“It is just not feasible to take them out and bring them back,” she said. “You risk damaging the work every day. The only people I know who do that are jewelers with small, portable works.”

There has been theft at the festival before. Ten years ago, someone walked off with a life-sized statue of a woman in the middle of the afternoon. The piece was valued at $38,000. It was found two months later in a Herndon man’s home.

Also on Saturday, someone walked away from an artist’s booth with a handmade bowl, said McCullough.

If you have any info on the stolen quilts, contact Grisdela at [email protected]

Photo: “Song of the Heart,” by Cindy Grisdela; “Geranium,” by Cindy Grisdela

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