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The Art Heist: Stealing & Helping at the Same Time

by Jerome Weeks 28 Oct 2010 6:52 AM

Every two years, North Texas has an ‘art heist.’ It’s a fundraiser. Patrons get to grab artworks right off a gallery’s walls. If that sounds unusual, so’s the volunteer group behind it. Jerome Weeks reports on the only area organization that directly aids visual artists in need.


Elaine Taylor, in front of Journey by Jessica Ray at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center

Every two years, North Texas has an ‘art heist.’ It’s a fundraiser. Patrons get to grab artworks right off a gallery’s walls. KERA’s Jerome Weeks says if that sounds unusual, so is the volunteer organization behind it.

KERA radio story:

Expanded online story:

It’s called EASL — the Emergency Artists’ Support League. It’s the only North Texas group that directly helps visual artists in need. Since 1992, EASL has given more than $300,000 to some 250 artists — people who’ve suffered unexpected losses from fire, theft or illness. These setbacks can be catastrophic because artists often don’t have insurance.

EASL raises it money through the Art Heist. This Saturday at the Lofty Spaces in Dallas, each patron who’s bought a ticket will be given one minute to take a favorite work from this year’s selection of 181 sculptures, paintings, photos, drawings and collages. [You can preview them.]

Elaine Taylor has donated artworks to the Heist. She’s the gallery manager of the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, but also makes her own sculptural installations. She says she’s often asked to donate works to charities and social causes. The Art Heist is different.

Taylor: “It’s one of the few that artists are asked to donate to that actually comes back to the artists.”

This turned out to be literally true. EASL’s grants are anonymous, but Taylor agreed to speak about her own case. Last December, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In February, she underwent a double mastectomy.

Taylor: “I have insurance, I have a job. You know, I’m unusual in that I have resources that a lot of artists don’t have. But just the expenses piled up and piled up, and it got to the point that I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

Undergoing treatment for cancer, Taylor wasn’t even able to fill out the paperwork. EASL volunteers helped her – and got her a grant within a month.

Taylor says she’s well enough now, she’s back working on her sculptures.

  • Elaine is just one of the hundreds of artists EASL has awarded grants to for medical or emergency reasons. EASL has awarded over $350,000 in grants to over 200 artists since 1992.

    Tickets to the Art Heist will be available at Lofty Spaces on Saturday night and doors open for the art preview at 7PM.

    You can also buy tickets online and pay via PayPal and your tickets will be at will-call. Just go to

    Art Heist is EASL’s major fundraising event and only happens every 2 years. We need to replenish our EASL Fund to continue to help artists like Elaine when they come to us for a grant.

    Your support is greatly appreciated and we hope you will join us for this great event.

    Much thanks to KERA, Art&Seek, Anne Bothwell and Jerome Weeks for covering EASL and the Art Heist this week.

  • Thanks to KERA for supporting this great cause!

  • I just can’t say enough about how wonderful this organization is. They have helped so many of my friends when times were tough. They play a roll in supporting the arts that is unique, crucial and personal.

    See you at the Art Heist,