Blank spaces on the lobby’s walls where Tracey Hambleton’s original artwork had been displayed greeted Barre Opera House staff Nov. 22. It was the first sign that someone had broken in and stolen cash and four paintings. One painting has since been recovered. “During the day, we saw some young people on the premises, and kicked them out,” said box office manager Cindy Campos. “They broke in again later on and stole the paintings. We are really hopeful that we’ll get them back.” Nobody has yet been charged with the theft; Sergeant Kirkpatrick at the Barre Police Department said it is still an open investigation. “Staff at the opera house found one painting in a concession stand cupboard,” Hambleton said. “‘Fall Fields Remains’ — the largest one — I’m speculating perhaps they couldn’t fit it in a backpack and maybe stashed it there.”Opera House director Dan Casey added, “The thieves also broke into my office and took papers from the safe. We found them strewn all over the floor. But the worst part is the paintings. We at the Opera House have the sense of a violation, but the worst part is the loss of the original artwork. Most were small enough to fit into a backpack. Luckily, the artist had taken photos of each painting.” Security cameras caught photos of the suspects, and social media has helped with gathering names to report to the Barre Police Department. Initially reluctant to add cameras in this public space, Casey is now glad that a system is installed. Corporal Brian Hoar from the Barre Police is leading the investigation. He was unavailable for comment at press time. This is the second art theft in central Vermont this year. In August, seven paintings were stolen from an exhibit at the Bethany Church in Montpelier. That crime has not yet been solved, but security cameras were added to the exhibit space, and the theft is still an open investigation with the Montpelier Police Department.