The team behind The Fire Within in Wigan town centre has spoken of its sadness after artwork was stolen from the town centre exhibition.
A Victorian-style treasure box prepared by Paula Fenwick Lucas has disappeared from the culture hub which has been created in six empty retail units in The Galleries Shopping Centre.
The work was being displayed in a room designed by internationally-acclaimed Wigan-based artists Al and Al, who have worked with the council on the exhibition space and the borough’s new cultural strategy.
It is thought the treasure box disappeared a few weeks ago in July and Al and Al have appealed for any information on its whereabouts as it contained items of immense personal and sentimental value to the artists.
Al said: “It was a real shock to hear about the theft and we are all really upset about it.
“It’s a beautiful object and it contains some personal trinkets and little family heirlooms. We’d like to stress there’s nothing financially valuable in the box but the objects have a great personal value to Paula.
“It would be wonderful if the item was returned because the show is incomplete without it.
“It’s in the room The Immaculate Conception of Isaac Newtown and Paula was so inspired to make that work. She came round to our studio and discussed our plans for the show.”
Wigan Council has also expressed its disappointment that the box has been taken.
Lesley O’Halloran, assistant director of customer services at Wigan Council, said: “The council is saddened by the loss of the artwork and we are currently investigating the situation.”
It is understood that an investigation into the theft is now under way.
Around 100 people have volunteered to spend time working in The Fire Within during the weeks it has taken over the upper floor of the retail centre and The Galleries also has its own security team.
Many of the works in the exhibition, including priceless objects such as ancient Egyptian artefacts and original canvasses by Wigan artist Theodore Major, are also heavily alarmed.
Al and Al said they knew personally the pain of having work stolen.
Al said: “We moved to Liverpool for a solo show when we converted the train station that was the first passenger station in the world into an art gallery.
“The first week we moved there we got broken into and lost all our studio and about 10 years of artworks. It was really upsetting.”
Anyone with information can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.