MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa — It was the photography/art wing of the now-closed Iowa Wesleyan University’s auction.
Hoping for a wooden bench or two, I bid on an entire room, not expecting to win. But I did, and the room came with an unexpected find.
A large art portfolio, along with oil on canvas paintings from one student artist had somehow been left behind.
Dated between 2014 and 2015, the student’s name — Trevor H. — was on the portfolio and some of the signed paintings.
Aware that anything left from the auction would likely end up in a Dumpster, we grabbed the large stack of artwork and brought it home, but not before a serendipitous encounter.
The art room on the Iowa Wesleyan University campus, with stacks of artwork left behind. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
A retired art professor popped into the room, just long enough for me to ask whether or not he remembered Trevor.
He did, and in fact, had seen him working at a big box store in a nearby town. Trevor must not have wanted his portfolio, the professor surmised.
But looking through the artwork, with self-portraits, intricate animal sketches and colorful abstract oil paintings, I became convinced that the art belonged to the artist. If he didn’t want to keep it, maybe he could sell some of them, I reasoned.
So, I began my journey of finding Trevor H., with the only clue being the passing mention from the retired professor. I did my due diligence of searching online for phone numbers, possible relatives and addresses.
Coming up with few leads, I finally made a call to the big box store, unsure if Trevor would still be working there. It seemed for naught, as customer service wouldn’t confirm whether or not he was employed there.
Of course, why would they release that information, given privacy concerns? At that point, I nearly abandoned my quest, but left my phone number with them, just in case.
And surprisingly, I received a call later that day. Though he was still at work and couldn’t answer my long list of questions, Trevor said it would be OK to drop off his artwork.
After a 3-hour round-trip drive to make the dropoff today, I still don’t have all of my questions answered — did he graduate? did he hope to have a career in art? why was the portfolio left behind? — but am glad the artwork has been returned to its rightful owner.