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Public art from acclaimed First Nations artist stolen from downtown Vancouver

It’s the final week of Lantern City in Vancouver, an annual Lunar Near Year event celebrating the work of local artists from different cultural backgrounds.

But just days before the colourful installation of three-metre-tall lanterns on the north lawn of the the Vancouver Art Gallery was set to be removed, one of them was stolen at 2 a.m. Monday. The theft was caught on surveillance video.

“I did get to take a look at the footage, it’s just two figures – two dark figures in the night – taking the lantern. One of them scaled the lantern to try and get the cloth off, and obviously they succeeded,” said Michael Lin, a production manager with Lantern City.

He suspects the thieves knew what they were taking. The lantern was designed by acclaimed First Nations artist and Order of Canada recipient Richard Hunt.

“He’s done a lot of great works, and has been recognized fo his artwork across Canada,” said Lin.

Reached at his home in Victoria, Hunt says it’s the second time he submitted a design for Lantern City. “I did one last year, and I like the concept of seeing your work in a big format. I actually never got to see the one last year, and I guess I won’t get too see the the one this year,” said Hunt, who added the lantern design honoured members of his family.

“Hopefully they took it because they liked it, not … because they hated it. So that’s the way I look at it,” he said. “I hope they enjoy it, I guess. But it’s too bad that this has to go on in this world.”

The theft has been reported to police. Lin asked anyone who has seen a “very large lantern cloth” to contact the Vancouver Police Department.

He’s disappointed someone would take a piece of public art with deep cultural meaning.

“We put these in public places so that everyone can enjoy and appreciate the artistry and the storytelling behind each and every one of these pieces every year,” said Lin. “It was really sad to see that someone would actually do that. 

“My Family III” by Richard Hunt is seen in this image from The Lantern City’s Facebook page. (

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