Six years ago, Calgary artist Rich Theroux created a group of three paintings – a self-portrait, a painting of his wife and another of his son.
“I was going to keep them, but I ended up exchanging my son’s, then I sold my wife’s. The one from me was kind of left out and then I sold it,” Theroux said.
“Then my publisher conspired with my wife to collect my poems and publish my book of poetry, and put it on the cover of the book. Then I kinda regretted selling it.
But at that point, it was gone.
The woman who bought it for $500 later donated it to a charity auction.
Once sold there, Theroux thought there was no hope of finding him.
Then, in early October, while finishing a mural under the LRT bridge on 10th Street, he received a call from a friend.
“Francis Willey, a photographer friend, sent me a photo of my painting…and wrote, ‘You’re worth more than this,’” Theroux said.
The image showed the painting in the Chinook Value Village store, priced at $249.99.
“I was thrilled, and actually, I wish I was in his shoes. I was like, ‘Oh, that would have been such a fun find.’ And then I asked him if he could get it back for me, because I didn’t want it to be sold within half an hour while we were going to get the van.
At $249.99, the four-by-four-foot painting was by far the most expensive item in the thrift store’s artwork area.
Value Village production manager Sara Parkin said when the painting arrived at the store, staff could tell it was out of the ordinary.
“It was something really special that we’re not used to seeing on this scale. Everyone was commenting on how beautiful it was and how modern (it was),” Parkin said.
“Even though we didn’t recognize this artist, we knew we had something special on our hands because of the reaction from our team. We were so impressed with the art.
What does Theroux think of his painting appearing in a thrift store?
“A lot of people go through breakups and get rid of all their art, or just move or downsize. I was thrilled that it made it to Value Village instead of being in a dumpster or even just being repainted,” Theroux said.
“You kind of hear mythologies about things like this, and I just feel like it’s kind of a rite of passage to have your stuff recycled. I think that’s pretty neat.
Willey grabbed the painting for Theroux, who paid him $300 for it. The self-portrait now hangs inside Rumble House, a non-profit art studio operated by Theroux and his wife, Jessica Szabo.
The pair of public school art teachers open the doors to Rumble House (1136 8th Ave. SW) every Wednesday, allowing creators free access to the studio to create art and then auction it off later In the evening.
Artists keep 50% of their sales and the rest goes to support Rumble House.
Theroux and Szabo return 100% of their sales to keep the art studio going.
As a result, Theroux says, there’s a good chance the self-portrait will come up for auction again.
“We never earned a penny. Ten years, we’ve never won a dime at Rumble House. It’s an expensive business to run,” Theroux said.
“So yes, we will probably resell (the painting). I have to pay the rent at the Rumble House.
Rumble house will celebrate its 500th night of open studio and sales on December 21.
“We only expected six. So wow! We’ll have 500 and we’ll keep going,” Theroux said.