Artist to re-create Amherst History Mural

Staff Writer
Published: 4/1/2016 2:12:57 AM

AMHERST – A portrait of Emily Dickinson has kept a watchful eye over the West Cemetery, where the poet and her family are buried, for more than a decade.

But later this year, Dickinson, as well as the numerous historical figures from Amherst who surround her on the Amherst History Mural, painted on the back side of the Amherst Carriage Shops, will disappear as the building is torn down to make way for a new mixed-use development called One East Pleasant.

For about two years, the mural will be absent from the site, but muralist David Fichter, of Cambridge, said he is ready to re-create the mural to accompany the new project.

“I am very excited that the mural will be saved in that it will have a second life overlooking the historical West Cemetery and will continue to be a part of Amherst's cultural life,” said Fichter, who was commissioned to complete the mural, dedicated in June 2005.

Fichter said in an email Wednesday that he has signed an agreement with Kyle Wilson, principal with Archipelago Investments, to repaint the mural in phases that will, if all goes to plan, be complete in November 2018.

“During the next two months I will visit the mural to do extensive photographic documentation of the whole mural, especially the historical portraits,” Fichter said. “I will also trace the portrait outlines and details on to clear plastic which I can then use to re-draw the design back up on the new wall when we get to that point.”

Fichter will then tweak the original design, which was created for a surface that includes windows and air conditioners projecting from it. He intends to meet with the Amherst Historical Commission to make sure the revised design is acceptable.

A new brick wall to be built next to One East Pleasant will be the canvas for the mural, which will have greater prominence in the future.

“I want to wait for the wall to fully cure before starting to paint the mural, so I will begin prepping the wall in the spring of 2018 and painting the actual mural during the late spring, summer and early fall of that year,” Fichter said.

David Williams, another principal with Archipelago, told the Planning Board at a recent meeting that the brick wall will give the mural a more historic appearance than the current concrete block wall.

Other improvements will add to its attractiveness for visitors to West Cemetery, which besides Dickinson’s final resting place, also include the graves for several black soldiers who fought in the Civil War and prominent 18th-century Amherst families.

“We’re looking at how it’s lit, how it's flashed at the top so you don’t get undermining of the painting ... and also will apply a coating to it that’s guaranteed for 25 years,” Williams said. 

Scott Merzbach can be reached at

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