Copious Notes

Artist in Transy rare book heist will paint mural in downtown Lexington

Spencer Reinhard (left) appeared with Eric Borsuk, Warren Lipka and Charles Allen III on “Megyn Kelly Today” in June to discuss their roles in the Transylvania University rare book heist and the movie, “American Animals.”
Spencer Reinhard (left) appeared with Eric Borsuk, Warren Lipka and Charles Allen III on “Megyn Kelly Today” in June to discuss their roles in the Transylvania University rare book heist and the movie, “American Animals.” Megyn Kelly TODAY

One of the four men involved in the 2004 Transylvania University rare book heist will be putting a different mark on Lexington, next week.

Spencer Reinhard, who was an art major at the university before he was arrested and served a seven-year prison sentence for his role in the crime, is painting the inaugural mural in this year’s PRHBTN festival of street art. In previous years, the festival has commissioned murals such as the colorful Abraham Lincoln piece by Eduardo Kobra that overlooks East Vine Street and the controversial image by French painter MTO that overlooks a portion of the Distillery District.

Reinhard’s mural will be on a wall of the Lextran transportation center on East Vine, just before the bus ports if you are driving down the one-way street.

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That surface had been painted before, but with unsatisfactory results due to the deep grooves in the cinder block wall. For this mural, PRHBTN founder John Winters said Reinhard has already painted the mural on boards that will be mounted to the wall starting next week.

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Spencer Reinhard in 2005, during sentencing for his role in the theft of rare books from Transylvania University. Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

Like much of Reinhard’s work, Winters says the piece will have a bird and wildlife theme, much like a mural he painted for the airport in Bogata, Colombia. Reinhard now lives in Cali, Colombia.

Reinhard participated in the infamous book heist with three University of Kentucky students: Warren Lipka, Eric Borsuk and Charles Allen III in 2004. They were arrested early the next year after they attempted to sell some of the rare books they had stolen to Christie’s Auction House in New York. Christie’s personnel thought the men seemed suspicious and alerted authorities.

The story was recently on the big screen in “American Animals,” a feature film by British director Bart Layton that included segments with each of the heist participants, as well as the librarian, BJ Gooch, who was assaulted in the crime.

Special collections librarian BJ Gooch recounts the story of two thieves attacking her to steal parts of the special collections at Transylvania University's library. The story was the feature of the film American Animals, directed by Bart Layton.

Winters said PRHBTN has received mostly positive response to news Reinhard will be creating a mural in this year’s event.

“Some reaction has been that we shouldn’t be glorifying a criminal,” Winters said. “Our position is he did his time and paid his debt to society. We chose him because his art is really great.”

Winters said Reinhard, a Tates Creek High School graduate, reached out to PRHBTN about creating a mural for the event, and initially Winters did not know about the heist and Reinhard’s role in it.

Reinhard will be working on the mural next week and Friday, and he will speak at the monthly Creative Mornings gathering at the Kentucky Theatre. Free tickets will be available Monday morning to people registered at the Creative Mornings website.

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