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Students' artwork painted over by museum

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. (NEWS10) - Residents in North Adams say they want answers after several historic pillars downtown were painted over by MASS MoCA officials.

In 2012 and 2013, students from the North Adams School spent their summers painting historic and significant dolls.

“Each column had an image of a doll. One was like a policemen figure, one was a Goldilocks figure and in the 19th century, early 20th century, families would buy these kits and make these dolls,” William Oberst, a local artist who oversaw the project, said.

Oberst says after much research, the students from the North Adams school wanted to display dolls on public pillars downtown.

“There is a group in town called Art About Town which was looking for projects to do, public art projects and they had the idea of using these columns.”

In this area, it’s not uncommon to see murals of different calibers. Many residents say they love seeing public art around town.

“I’m transitioning to being a full-time homeowner in the area. As we were investigating houses, I’m from New York City, this art actually one of the reasons we liked this little downtown,” Joseph Smith, a North Adams resident, said.

Over the past year, MASS MoCA Museum officials have decided to paint over it. Oberst says when he asked for answers, he was told it had to do with speakers placed under this bridge back in the late 90’s.

Oberst says what’s even more frustrating is that the museum had no problem with the paintings for several years and this change comes with no notice and no reasonable explanation. When the museum was expanding, the artist who created these speakers wanted to bring restore these columns back to its original state.

He also says the paintings had an anti-graffiti sealant. He said he asked the mayor for approval just to get a sample of the grey paint to see if they may be able to recover what’s underneath but they had no luck.

North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard says he does not support a restoration of the work that was there previously.

"The way that the painting was done shouldn't have happened that way, particularly without any direct outreach," North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard said.

He says the speakers placed under the bridge intended to capture the sound of the area. It was done by a sound artist back in the 90's and the artists intended for the columns to be in its original state.

Bernard says the decision to pain these columns was made by the previous mayor and his focus now is to move forward by offering Oberst the chance to display his art in other parts of town or collaborate with other public works artists on his projects.


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