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Wednesday, May 28, 2008



Artists decry theft of paintings from church

By Ed Stannard
Register Metro Editor
NEW HAVEN
— Even for a thief, it’s pretty low to steal from a church, and to swipe someone’s heartfelt gift is lower still.
That’s how Suzanne DiBernardo feels now that two of her paintings, a gift to Church on the Rock, were stolen Friday morning. Patrick Lawrence, whose work depicting Noah’s Ark also was stolen, is upset and angry, too.
“Those were the first pieces that I had done in 10 years,” DiBernardo said Monday. “And I gave them to my pastor because of all the help I received in that church.” DiBernardo lives in Milford; Lawrence in Hamden.
DiBernardo’s paintings represented her personal journey after dealing with health issues. The first depicts a shattered terra cotta vase; the second shows the vase back in one piece. “My life was shattered. … Jesus just restored me through the Church on the Rock,” she said.
When she returned to painting, DiBernardo was moved to give her first pieces to the church. “The Bible says to give the first fruits to the Lord, (and) those were the first pieces I’d done in 10 years,” she said.
The Church on the Rock, an evangelical Christian parish, shares a building with Easter Seals Goodwill Industries at 95 Hamilton St. Pastor Todd Foster said the thief apparently grabbed the paintings sometime between 6 and 9 a.m. Friday. There has been no guard posted early in the day, which may soon change.
“Somebody could just snatch those off the wall and walk out with it in a heartbeat,” Foster said. He said the paintings are insured.
Lawrence said his watercolor, one of two he donated that depicts Noah’s Ark, was hung near the elevator. Like DiBernardo, he said the worth of the painting is more spiritual than monetary.
“It is of great value in that it embraces something as a whole we embrace,” he said, calling the church “a place of refuge in New Haven.” He said his paintings’ purpose “really was to inspire that type of hope and faith in Christ.”
Foster said the paintings are meaningful, but are valuable mostly because of what they represent.
“First of all, they were works from people within the church,” he said. “They were also quality pieces, so artistically they were symbolic and representative of what we believe and stand for.”
Foster said he filed a complaint with police and hopes either the thief will have a change of heart or someone will see them offered for sale. He said he’d gladly accept them back, no questions asked.
“I think there’s not much chance that we’ll see them back, but we’d love to have them back,” he said.
Anyone with information can call New Haven police at 946-6316 or the church at 498-2687.
Ed Stannard can be reached at estannard@nhregister.com or 789-5743.

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