Since 2009, Gallery Bohemia on Government Street has provided a safe haven for some of Baton Rouge's most artistic residents—and if owner Kellye Bond Ford has her way, it'll stay that way.
The gallery has been broken into twice in about six months, both times through large glass windows at the front of the shop.
Ford says the first incident occurred last October, and the gallery was burglarized again in March.
Each time, the burglar took cash, tools and items Ford says were “hockable,” like the store's cell phone and crafting supplies. No artwork was stolen during either break-in.
Ford says the burglaries have affected her sense of security while at the gallery.
“Before it happened, I'd gotten comfortable,” she says. “Now it's like I always have this worry that it's going to happen again.”
But she refuses to let Bohemia's misfortune affect the artists or patrons who flock to it.
Ford has added fundraising efforts to the events Bohemia hosts each month, and in April, she had three artists paint on the plywood covering the space where the window once was. She plans to auction off those impromptu pieces.
The proceeds will go toward a security system for the gallery.
Dorcas, the artist behind JDorcas Photography, says she's been inspired by the efforts Ford is making to keep Bohemia up and running. Dorcas has been selling her photos at the gallery for about a year and a half and was disappointed to hear of the incidents.
“It's unfortunate,” she says. “It really speaks to the crime in this community. This place is a jewel in Baton Rouge, and these things still happen here.”
Ford has seen an outpouring of support from the community following each break-in and believes it speaks to the character of her loyal customers.
“People care,” she says. “I haven't seen a decline in customers. My friends and patrons still come. People really come together after things like this.”
For now, she's saving money to replace the broken windows and install spotlights to deter burglars. Ford refuses to let the break-ins dampen her love for the community on Government Street.
“Yes, it sucks,” she says. “But I'm not going to just not do things for other people. It's in my nature to give, and that's what I'm going to do.”
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