A bank heist, a head shop and heroes in a half shell: New mural on Main Street

  • Artist Ramiro Davaro-Comas of Brooklyn paints a masked robber in a mural on the former Northampton National Bank building at the corner of Main and Center Streets on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. In January of 1876, the bank was robbed of $1.6 million, roughly equivalent to $26 million in today’s dollars. The building was once owned by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Artist Ramiro Davaro-Comas of Brooklyn paints a masked robber in a mural on the former Northampton National Bank building at the corner of Main and Center Streets on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. In January of 1876 the bank was robbed of $1.6 million, roughly equivalent to $26 million in today’s dollars. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Brooklyn artist Ramiro Davaro-Comas paints a masked robber in a mural on the former Northampton National Bank building at the corner of Main and Center Streets on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. In January of 1876, the bank was robbed of $1.6 million, roughly equivalent to $26 million in today’s dollars. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Artist Ramiro Davaro-Comas of Brooklyn paints one of several masked robbers onto a mural on the former Northampton National Bank building at the corner of Main and Center Streets on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. In January of 1876, the bank was robbed of $1.6 million, roughly equivalent to $26 million in today’s dollars. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Artist Ramiro Davaro-Comas of Brooklyn works on a mural on the Center Street side of the former Northampton National Bank building, across from First Churches of Northampton, on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. In January of 1876, the bank was robbed of $1.6 million, roughly equivalent to $26 million in today’s dollars. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 5/15/2019 4:34:44 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A mural is going up on the 135 Main St. building, highlighting a history that includes a notable bank robbery and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The artist is Ramiro Davaro-Comas. Based in Brooklyn, Davaro-Comas, 32, is an alumnus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst who stayed in the area for a few years after graduating.

He said that his painting and art career “really took off” at Northampton’s FOE Gallery, when it was still located on Pleasant Street.

Chris Kielb, the owner of the 135 Main St. site, commissioned the mural, which is an illustrated history of the building, which once housed the Northampton National Bank. The bank was the site of a January 1876 heist in which robbers known as the Scott, Dunlap and Connors gang stole $1.6 million dollars in cash, bonds and securities. That’s roughly equivalent to $26 million today.

At the time, it was widely reported as the largest bank heist in U.S. history, according to Dylan Gaffney, an information services associate at Forbes Library.

The 1833 building, which still contains two vaults, was once owned by Kevin Eastman, one of the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Now it is the home of The Vault, a vape and smoke shop that is associated with the Shop Therapy head shops.

All of these pieces of history will factor into the mural, which when complete will feature depictions of bank robbers, Ninja Turtles and Shop Therapy founder Ronny Hazel, who is described on the store’s website as a colorful character who made the journey from “street hustler to tunnel rat, border rat to businessman.”

“It’s just a big, circular, historical illustrated loop,” said Davaro-Comas, who is collaborating with fellow artist Grace Lang on the project.

Kielb said that after he spent tens of thousands of dollars renovating the building, it had graffiti sprayed on its newly-painted exterior.

“One of the best ways to prevent graffiti is to do a mural,” he said and referred to the artwork as “an investment in the property.” 

“It looks awesome,” he said.

Davaro-Comas began working on the mural on Monday, and he said the cold, windy and rainy weather has been a “pain in the butt.”

He hopes to complete the mural by Sunday. 

“I just want to bring more public art to the area,” said Davaro-Comas, who also helped the Northampton Arts Council put on its Northampton Public Arts Festival mural festival last weekend.

Kielb said he would like to see more murals in the city, and Davaro-Comas commended Kielb for bringing art to the community that the public can enjoy for free.

“No one has pay to see this, no one has to go into a museum,” Davaro-Comas said. “It’s here, and if you like it you can check it out.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

 




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