‘He took my livelihood away from me’: Jackson Square artist’s van stolen with most of her work inside

Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 10:47 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - An 82-year-old Jackson Square artist’s van was stolen from her home in the Bywater Tuesday with almost all of her artwork inside.

“He had no clue my paintings were in there and he took my livelihood away from me,” Barbara Yochum said.

Yochum is disoriented, to say the least. She’s been selling her artwork in Jackson Square since she was 26-years-old, through the good times and the bad.

“I like putting it up for people to see and I love to see how they react and when somebody buys it makes me feel really good,” Yochum said. “It’s important. I mean, I probably don’t know if I’d still be here if I didn’t paint, you know?”

Yochum says she doesn’t have the will to paint right now.

“I don’t want to. I’m devastated, to be honest, emotionally devastated,” Yochum said.

She says she’s always super careful, making sure she double checks her van is locked.

But, this time, it didn’t matter. She says the thief got his hands on her keys.

“I still don’t remember picking up my keys or when I did, whether they fell on the ground right by the door,” Yochum said.

Yochum was frazzled, trying to get rid of a mouse her cat brought inside and she left her gate open.

Her back was turned for less than a minute and just a short distance from her door.

“I stood up and I see the guy leaving my porch and I‘m puzzled. I mean, I was really disoriented when I saw it and I went what the hell? So, I went over and I said, well, there’s no packages on here, so he didn’t get anything,” Yochum said.

It wasn’t until later she realized it, but surveillance shows he got everything: her van with 22 paintings, 20 collages, and 300 prints. It totals over $22,000 and two and a half years worth of her work.

“It’s going to take me forever. Right now, I don’t feel like painting,” Yochum said. “I’m probably going to paint crying angels or something and my whole thing is I want to paint happy things because life can be so rough.”

Now, she says she’s a mess, trying to figure out what she needs to do next after suffering such a major setback to her life.

“Probably the biggest one, besides physical,” Yochum said. “I’ve had breast cancer a couple times, so that was a biggie, but not like this. I wasn’t worried about myself at all. I knew I was going to be okay. This time, I’m not so sure.”

Yochum just put $2,500 of work into the van as well.

It’s a light gold 2008 Toyota Sienna with handicap license plates, a big scratch running along the driver’s side, and beads hanging from the rearview mirror.

Click HERE to donate to her GoFundMe.

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