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Friday, January 17, 2014

Chalk Portrait of Matthew Shepard Found at BART Given to Matthew Shepard Foundation

Posted By on Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge Matthew Shepard artwork found on BART - UNKNOWN ARTIST VIA BART
  • unknown artist via BART
  • Matthew Shepard artwork found on BART

As we've mentioned in the past BART's lost & found is routinely filled with items you wouldn't want to ever touch: porn, prosthetics, and dentures.

But every now and again, the keepers of all things lost over there will come across something that might be worth holding onto.

For instance, this chalk portrait of Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old gay man who was murdered in 1998, that landed at BART's lost & found earlier this year. There was no name or information, making it near impossible to reunite the artwork with the artist.

So BART did the next best thing: Sent the emotional drawing to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

"It was a really interesting item," says Marie Haffner, one of the Lost and Found employees who first noticed the piece. "The name 'Matthew Shepard - RIP' was written on the bottom and I knew I remembered his story from somewhere ... I thought, isn't he the young man who was beaten and found hanging from the fence?"

Indeed he was. Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming when he was lured from a gay bar by two men who tied him to a fence, tortured him, beat him and left him to die. During the trial, it became clear that Shepard was targeted for being gay. Shepard died from head injuries a few days later. His case became a turning point for hate crimes against gays. In October 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard Act which expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

According to BART, 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. Nobody knows who turned in the artwork or at what station it was found.

But seeing the value in the unclaimed portrait, Haffner called up the Matthew Shepard Foundation in Denver and arranged to have it sent there for display at the foundation's headquarters.

Robert House, programs and outreach manager for the foundation, said the artwork arrived on Wednesday; when staff opened the package, they were "moved" by the creator's vision of Shepard.

"This artwork is based on a photograph that was taken by one of Matt's high school friends, that has been seen a lot, and we use in many of our materials," House said. "And this was a fresh interpretation. It puts Matt's face and unique smile right at the center."

If you have any information about the artwork, contact the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.

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