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The VA Art Burglaries Leads to an Arrest

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

By: Jennifer Ward

One of Coleman's pieces stolen from the VA (Photo courtesy of Shadonis Coleman)

The Purchase community was rocked when the Visual Arts department (VA) was hit with a series of robberies from the student art shows. Students remained vigilant and on edge until University Police (UPD) announced that Frank Flippone, of Fairfield, Connecticut was arrested by the State University Police.

The paintings that were stolen from the Visual Arts building included nudity and sex. These intimate pieces were stolen from Jackson Gautrau, Shadonis Coleman, and Glenn Federico.

“I was really upset. I really liked that painting,” said Jackson Gautreau, a 2022 Purchase graduate from the painting and drawing department. “They really do feel like an extension of yourself in a way. I was heartbroken.”

“To hear how upset the students were about their work being stolen, it’s intimate artwork. That hit home,” said Dayton Tucker, UPD chief.

Shadonis Coleman, a 2022 Purchase graduate from the painting and drawing department, said, “The only thing I have to say to the thief is that next time leave a note wondering whose art it is or a number and we could talk about a purchase. I’m used to old white mean men drooling over my black gorgeous body but I’m also all about reparations.”

Many questions remain, including how the suspect, allegedly, knew the schedule of the student shows and when the artwork would be up in the building with nobody there. UPD said they assume the suspect is an art lover and that is part of the reason Fillipone allegedly stole the work. This still leaves in the air the question if Purchase was the suspect’s only spot, or if other colleges fell victim to this as well.

Through the use of security camera footage, help from the Harrison Police Department, and the use of the suspect’s car, UPD was able to find the suspect at his house and bring him to their office for questioning. This investigative process led to his arrest.

Suspect Frank Flippone leaving the VA allegedly with students artwork. (Photo via Purchase cameras)

According to the Yonkers Times, Flippone, 72, was arraigned on Feb. 2 and is being charged with three felonies and three misdemeanors. Flippone was set to appear in court again on Feb. 14.

Following the first theft, students in the Visual Arts building were urged to remain as careful as possible when it came to their work. Both faculty and UPD encouraged students to lock the doors behind them and keep a watchful eye on their work.

Students have stated that although UPD’s efforts of doing rounds of the building at night were appreciated, they do wish that the school had more precautions set in the building.

“Looking over my shoulder all of the time, every time I saw an old man on campus I got suspicious,” said Gautreau. “There’s not much security and there’s nothing separating people from the paintings.”

Tucker did extend thanks to the student body for their help in the investigation. “We appreciate that students worked very hard to help out because they wanted to catch him too. It was very helpful for us because you understated the students worked very hard to produce this work, for it to be stolen is ridiculous,” said Tucker. “It was a big deal, we really wanted to solve this because the VA is a very tight-knit community, and the students are very respectful of their items and each other’s space.”

In a turn of events for the victims, the artwork was recovered from the residency of Flippone and will be returned to the artists in the upcoming weeks.

“It’s usually not likely we’ll recover the artwork, so this was monumental to us,” said Tucker. “We look forward to bringing the work home and handing it back.”

The question still remains as to why the suspect stole this artwork in the first place.I just want to know why. I want to know what the motivation was. Why did he feel he had the right to do that,” said Gautreau.

Tucker continues to urge the campus that although the alleged suspect has been arrested, to remain as vigilant as ever. “If you see someone that isn’t doing the right thing give us a call because we really want to protect people’s art. There is some beautiful art in the hallways, which makes it hard for the work to be protected,” said Tucker. “Lock doors behind you, secure your equipment, and if you see something suspicious give us a call because you never know.”



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