Amherst’s community history mural nears finish line

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  • Cambridge artist David Fichter works on the Amherst Hotel portion of his recreation of the Amherst Community History Mural on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 3, 2019. His original mural, completed in 2005, was lost with the demolition of the former Carriage Shops on East Pleasant Street. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Cambridge artist David Fichter, right, and his assistant, Liane Noddin, left, of Somerville, work on the recreation of the Amherst Community History Mural on the back wall of One East Pleasant Street on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 3, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Cambridge artist David Fichter works on his recreation of the Amherst Community History Mural on the back of One East Pleasant Street in Amherst on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 3, 2019. His original mural, which he completed in 2005 in virtually the same spot, was lost with the demolition of the former Carriage Shops. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • In this partial view of the Amherst Community History Mural, Cambridge artist David Fichter, on scaffolding at upper right, works on the Amherst Hotel portion of his recreation while his assistant, Liane Noddin, upper left, of Somerville, works on a winter landscape near the likenesses of two Civil War soldiers on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 3, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A portrait of poet Emily Dickinson looks over the right shoulder of Cambridge artist David Fichter as he prepares to work on the recreation of the Amherst Community History Mural, Thursday afternoon. The mural, painted on the back wall of One East Pleasant Street, faces into West Cemetery where Dickinson is buried. Fichter completed the original mural in 2005 but it was lost with the demolition of the former Carriage Shops on East Pleasant Street in 2016. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Cambridge artist David Fichter works on a portrait of banjo player Gil Roberts placed in the setting of the old Amherst Hotel in Fichter's recreation of the Amherst Community History Mural on Thursday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Cambridge artist David Fichter prepares dozens of brushes to use in the recreation of the Amherst Community History Mural at One East Pleasant Street on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 3, 2019. His original mural, which he completed in 2005, also faced into West Cemetery but was lost with the demolition of the former Carriage Shops on East Pleasant Street in 2016. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 10/7/2019 11:36:33 AM

AMHERST — A portrait of Emily Dickinson and depictions of a number of other famous Amherst residents, included in a mural which had been an integral element of the West Cemetery for more than a decade, should be completely restored this fall.

Cambridge artist David Fichter, who completed the original Amherst Community History Mural in 2005 but saw it lost to the demolition of the Amherst Carriage Shops in 2016, said Wednesday that he is about a month from finishing the revived artwork on an exterior wall of the One East Pleasant mixed-use building, which was built on the same site.

Fichter said there are still some details to complete and a varnish to apply over its surface before the mural, 150 feet long and 16 feet tall, is done.

Working alongside Liane Noddin, a Somerville artist, and apprentices, Fichter was on site in June to begin the work before returning in late August.

The piece is almost an exact recreation, with the exceptions of tweaking the design to add graphics in places where windows and air-conditioning units had broken up the surface of the Carriage Shops wall.

To have the new mural match the original, Fichter took numerous photographs of the work and then created a numbered grid on a large scroll. This grid was then transferred to the wall, first retracing elements of the mural onto the brick surface and, using a paint-by-numbers approach, filling it in with the appropriate colors.

Fichter describes the experience of recreating the large mural as “interesting.”

“It’s been very interesting painting it a second time. In some ways more difficult and some ways easier,” Fichter said.

He said he is glad the mural could be preserved and is confident that residents feel likewise, especially the many visitors who drop by the cemetery that is the final resting place for Dickinson and her family.

In addition to Dickinson, the mural includes orchardist Howard Atkins, banjo player Gil Roberts, poet Robert Francis and Civil War-era soldiers, including those who were part of a famed black regiment.

The redesign was approved by the Historical Commission, which undertook the original project and paid for the project with donations and the use of Community Preservation Act money. The mural’s recreation was paid for by Archipelago Investments, which constructed the One East Pleasant project.

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


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