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February 11, 2014 > BART Lost and Found finds valuable artwork

BART Lost and Found finds valuable artwork

Submitted By BART

Hundreds of stray itemsÊcan come into the BART Lost and Found office every day, and workers diligently try to reunite them with their owners. The typical process involves tagging the item with the relevant information on when it was found, where, and by whom.

Somehow, though, early this year, a piece showed up that would turn out to have a greatÊemotional impact, although its creator is unknown. Alert workers realized its potential significance and made sure it got back to a proper home. It is a chalk portrait of Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in 1998. It was not tagged so no one is sure who turned it in, or where it was found Ð just somewhere in the BART system. It could have been on a train, in a station, turned in by an employee or a passenger.

ÒIt was a really interesting item,Ó recalled Marie Haffner, one of the Lost and Found employees, officially called Transportation Administration Specialists,Êwho first noticed the piece. ÒThe name ÔMatthew Shepard Ð RIPÕ was written on the bottom and I knew I remembered his story from somewhere É I thought, isnÕt he the young man who was beaten and found hanging from the fence?Ó

The triptych-style artwork is about 2.5 by 3 feet in size, done in chalk on a thick stock paper, in shades of blue and gray. Because the portrait bore no ownership identification, Haffner got in touch with the Matthew Shepard Foundation in Denver, Colo. , and arranged to have it sent there for display at the foundationÕs headquarters. ÒIt arrived on Wednesday,Ó Robert House, programs and outreach manager for the foundation, said Friday. He said at the end of a staff meeting, the foundationÕs staff opened it up and were moved by the creatorÕs vision of Matthew.

ÒThis artwork is based on a photograph that was taken by one of MattÕs high school friends, that has been seen a lot, and we use in many of our materials,Ó House said. ÒAnd this was a fresh interpretation. It puts MattÕs face and unique smile right at the center.Ó
ÒThere is a very small, indistinct signature,Ó of the artist who apparently created the work, House noted. However, employees of BART and theÊfoundationÊcould not make out the name.Ê So the questions of who created the work, of what inspired the artist, what Shepard's story meant to them, remain unanswered.

House said he was pleased to receive the work because itÕs important that ShepardÕs legacy live on.

ÒOur foundation exists to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance, by telling the stories of how hate impacts everyone,Ó he said. ÊÒJust this past summer in New York City we saw a large increase in anti-gay hate crimes.Ó

If you have any information to add to the story of the artwork, you can find contacts for the Shepard Foundation on its website,Ê http://www.matthewshepard.org/

Information on the BART Lost and Found Department is at:Ê http://www.bart.gov/guide/lostandfound

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