Drag queen and supporters plan to create art from recent vandalism

  • Joe Dulude II stands with the two portraits before they were torn down and shredded on Bank Row late last week. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Katherine “Kat” Adler, as Karl and Joe Dulude II as Mr. Drag. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/7/2019 10:47:05 AM

GREENFIELD — Joe Dulude II was in England when he heard the news that two portraits of him that had hung on the former First National Bank on Bank Row for the past month had been vandalized — torn to shreds.

“Unfortunately, these amazing photos that I did in collaboration with (Wheaton Mahoney Photography) were vandalized and torn up by someone,” Dulude said in a Facebook post — he returns from London on Wednesday, but encouraged the newspaper to quote his post. “We knew that there may be some backlash to having drag queen pictures up in the center of town, but to have someone make the effort to reach under the secure plastic and tear the photos hits hard.”

Eggtooth Productions Artistic Director Linda McInerney, who played a role in hanging the portraits, said she was in Greenfield Community Development Administrator MJ Adams’ office in the former TD Bank building on the corner of Main and Federal streets Friday morning when she heard the news about the portraits.

“I walked into the office around 9 a.m.,” McInerney said. “MJ was on the phone and looked distraught. She looked at me and said, ‘How did you know to come?’”

McInerney said Adams told her what had happened to the portraits either late Thursday or early Friday morning and that shards of Plexiglass as well as the shredded portraits were still lying on the ground in front of the former bank building.

“Someone had taken down those beautiful portraits and destroyed them,” McInerney said through tears on Monday morning. “Right there!”

So, the two women walked across to the First National Bank building and collected the pieces.

“We threw away a lot of the Plexiglass pieces, but we still have the pieces of the portrait,” McInerney said. “It’s a terrible thing, but we’re going to build something beautiful and good out of this. We may even use the pieces of the portraits to create new art.”

McInerney said it is sorrowful to know there is “such hatred” out there. She said there’s such a juxtaposition, because when the portraits were placed in that space a month ago, there was overwhelming support.

“Dozens of people responded in a positive way and remarked at how beautiful it was there on Bank Row,” she said. “I thought, ‘There’s such a high level of forward thinking and open-mindedness here in our city.’”

McInerney said she loves that she lives in Greenfield, where diversity is celebrated. She said Dulude is “such a superlative artist” who has worked on Broadway, is Emmy-nominated and is “so connected to the local community.”

“He has worked so hard for his open-hearted art,” she said.

McInerney said she spoke with Dulude after the incident and he said he was “OK.” She said they will meet with others when he returns and decide where to go from here.

“We want to come up with a response that Joe would like to see,” she said. “We’re all shocked at the violence, but we have to move on to a more positive space. We’ll most likely be doing something — art, an installation — in the former World Eye Bookshop space on Main Street, which will be called The Hive.”

Katherine “Kat” Adler, who performs as Karl with Dulude’s Mr. Drag, did a tribute to Dulude and his work over the weekend, going to the former bank building and reading from a statement, saying Dulude is pure joy, perpetual strength, earnest and honest in relationships with all who cross his path.

Adler said Dulude is “beyond a dreamer, a true visionary,” challenging humanity to accept all in their truest form.

Adler said the destructive act cannot be met with more negativity, but instead with compassion, while everyone tries to figure out “where the hate comes from.” Adler said Greenfield has always seemed to be a safe community where people can be who they are, and while many are disgusted with the recent act, they can respond in a positive way.

Adler plans to use some of the Plexiglass pieces to make a necklace for Dulude.

“We all have ideas about what we’re going to do, but we also want to hear from Joe first,” Adler said.

McInerney said whatever everyone decides to do to move on from this act, it will not highlight the hatred. Instead, it will educate and help open hearts and minds.

“Something beautiful will come out of this,” she said.

“Even when you think you live in a place that is welcoming and accepting of everyone, hate can still rear its ugly head,” Dulude said. “I am hurt by this action, but it is outweighed by the beautiful support I have gotten by members of the community, some of whom I know and some of whom I do not know, but who have shared with me how much joy they received from (the portraits).”

Dulude said the portraits appeared to provoke happiness, discussion and intrigue for most. He said he doesn’t know if the vandalism was an act of homophobia or just someone who is so unhappy in their life that they feel the need to destroy joy.

“But just know, whoever did this will not bring us down,” Dulude said. “Your hate only makes us stronger and more determined to bring happiness and joy in this world. I will never stop painting my face and throwing on a wig and some heels.”

Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. could not be reached for comment Monday.

Anita Fritz can be reached at afritz@recorder.com.




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