NewsSarasota, Manatee County


Stolen $10k painting returned back to Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall nearly 30 years later

Posted at 3:52 PM, Mar 04, 2019

SARASOTA, Fla. — Inside Eric Bowyer's office are countless pieces of art, most of which came from garage sales.

"Whenever I see art at garage sales I study it. I inspect it because people overlook art," he said.

He spends between $4 and $25 for a painting, but most of them are worth thousands, just like the classic JonCorbino piece he found last year.

"I was excited," Bowyer said. "I bargained with the lady and I ended up getting it for $20."

He posted about the piece online and researched it. He quickly found out it's worth nearly $10,000, and belonged to the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota. Someone stole it from the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in 1991. Bowyer did what many probably wouldn't do in his situation. He gave it back for free.

He said he did that because "money is Irrelevant" to him. His number one priority was making sure it got back to the Van Wezel where it belongs.

Members of the art society were shocked to find out the painting was found, and that Bowyer didn't want anything in return.

"He's a very gracious person. and really just a nice guy," said Vern Weitz, the president of the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota.

Weitz says getting the painting back now is extra special because it's their 50th anniversary.