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Cafe owner wants her art back

Frida Cafe's owner says whoever is stealing from her should fear the karmic retribution of the deed.

Published March 16, 2006

TAMPA - Ever since Angelica Diaz opened Viva la Frida Cafe y Galeria in central Tampa's Old Seminole Heights neighborhood five years ago, her art cafe has been slowly dismantled - one small piece at a time.

A one-of-a-kind puppet of Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist for whom the restaurant is named, disappeared. Matted photos of Frida and prints by various artists vanished.

Someone even took the Frida "pet rock" that Diaz received as a gift two years ago. The rock was the tiny canvas for a painting of a sleeping Frida and her husband, Diego Rivera.

"That was the one that really upset me," said Diaz, 54.

None of the items had a lot of monetary value, but they are priceless to Diaz - whose life has been inspired by Frida Kahlo.

Diaz recently announced she is leaving Viva la Frida to pursue travel and art, and she plans to take her art with her. All of it.

So in one final push to retrieve the missing pieces, Diaz posted notices inside the restaurant's dining room and bathrooms urging that the items be returned.

The note features a full list of the stolen items, and its tone is both desperate and angry: Shame on you! You know who you are - it's not OK to feel you're entitled to a Frida souvenir gratis. A lot of these gifts were personal items from dear friends, others were for sale. Return what doesn't belong to you. Karma, Karma, Karma, Karma.

"I am just trying to recoup some of the pieces," Diaz said Tuesday. "I have a very hard time understanding people that take what is not theirs, whether it's a piece of art or whatever."

Diaz and co-owner John Ames never reported the thefts to police.

They kept hoping the culprit or culprits would return the items to the restaurant, known for its "starving artists" menu specials and colorful walls covered with art.

But the thiefs never gave back.

Diaz said she is especially disappointed someone would steal from a place that supports art and the creative types who make it. At Viva la Frida, artists display their work and get 100 percent of the proceeds.

"Most of the art we have isn't really expensive because obviously somebody could, like, flick salsa on it or something," said Ames. "Most work is in the $100 or $200-$300 range. But obviously we'd like to have the art back because we want to compensate the artists."

Angelica said the four missing matted Frida photos were priced at $25 each, and the artists' prints were about $22 each. Four to six are missing. Someone took several hand-painted Frida cards, which sold for $6 each.

Diaz suspects the thief is a Frida fan because most of the stolen items feature images of the dark-haired artist with the famous unibrow.

Ames said all of the missing pieces are small enough to fit inside a roomy purse.

"I can't say that I'm really surprised," he said of the thefts. "If a server is out of the room for a few minutes, it wouldn't be hard for someone to do it. I'm actually surprised more hasn't gone."

Diaz has wondered whether the thief is an employee, or perhaps a frequent diner.

But she has no proof, so she won't point fingers.

She said she will give a cash reward to anyone who helps her find the pieces, though she hasn't decided how much.

And even if she never sees the missing art again, Diaz is confident the culprits will get their due.

"I believe in karma," she said. "And this, it's not good karma. Eventually, this will come back to them."

Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at 813 226-3373 or

[Last modified March 16, 2006, 01:59:09]

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