Local artist says she was robbed of work after city seized 2 pizza joints

AURORA, Colo. -- Artist Meagan Collins said her artwork was stolen along with her time and effort after a local business owner failed to alert her that his property was about to be seized by the city of Aurora.

Collins stood outside A-Town Pizza on Sunday afternoon, staring at her artwork locked inside, still hanging on the walls of a building that's now under the property of the city of Aurora.

Signs posted on the building say the business owner, Will Harris, owes more than $13,000 in taxes to the city. Because that amount had not been paid, the city seized the property and everything inside it.

"I wish I could just walk in and get (my artwork), but I can't because I would get arrested because now the city has them," Collins said.

Collins showcased her work at A-Town Pizza's two locations. Collins said she and Harris had worked out that she would lend the restaurants her work to be used as decorations.

It was mutually beneficial; the restaurants got free wall decor and Collins got free publicity for her work.

Collins said she got a call last week from the city of Aurora, asking if she owned the paintings hanging inside the restaurants that had just been seized.

Collins said while she and Harris had a verbal agreement about the artwork, they had nothing in writing to prove it belonged to Collins -- a misstep Collins said she won't make again.

"[The city] said there is really nothing they can do about it. It's just going to go to auction and I can buy it back whenever the auction happens," Collins said.

Collins said the fiasco could have been avoided had Harris alerted her of the seizure ahead of time so she could collect her artwork.

"It would have been the right thing to do," Collins said. "The hardest thing for an artist is to have your pieces, your work just stripped from you without any kind of remorse from the people that did it. Just nothing."

In a Facebook message, Harris said he hopes to get the art to Collins as soon as he sells the locations. When asked why he hadn't alerted Collins ahead of the seizure, he didn't respond.

Collins said she planned to sell the art and had multiple pieces listed online. She's had to pull down the listings for fear she won't get the art back.

Right now, she said her only option is to purchase the artwork back at an auction.

"They take hours, days. Again, it's not something you can just wipe up. That's the most frustrating part because I can't recreate any of that," Collins said.