Dickinson art vandalized in Amherst

  • A painting of Emily Dickinson in Amherst is shown after being vandalized over the weekend. STAFF PHOTO/SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer
Monday, August 05, 2019

AMHERST — A prominent piece of public art in downtown Amherst that depicts Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, along with phrases from their poetry, was vandalized over the weekend.

Amherst Police at 10:53 a.m. Sunday discovered a painted bullet hole in the forehead of Dickinson’s portrait. Dickinson’s eyes were also blacked out.

It is uncertain when the vandalism occurred or whether it was in response to the mass shootings that took place the previous day in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, according to police.

The work, at the corner of Amity North Pleasant and Main streets, was completed last September by Northampton artist Jeff Wrench as part of Electrify Amherst!, which saw three utility boxes in downtown painted. The Dickinson portrait, which faces the street, is accompanied by the phrase “pardon my sanity in a world insane,” while “never be bullied into silence” is written next to Frost’s portrait.

Amy Crawley, a member of the Public Art Commission who coordinated the project, said in an email that Wrench was contacted after Dickinson’s eyes were previously blacked out this summer.

“I’m troubled and disheartened to hear about this most recent act, especially coming so quickly after Jeff repaired the first act of vandalism,” Crawley said.

Crawley said while the artists used sealants on their finished paintings, there has been talk about whether anti-graffiti coatings on murals would also be beneficial.

The damage to the painting was one of several incidents of vandalism in downtown during the weekend. A man walked by Insomnia Cookies, 30 Main St., and destroyed one of its signs at 1:11 a.m. Saturday, police said. And at 10:13 a.m. Sunday, police took a report from employees at Amherst Copy & Design Works, 37 East Pleasant St., after a large window was damaged by a thrown rock overnight.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.