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Climate Activist Imprisoned For Defacing Case At Degas Sculpture

A climate activist who pleaded guilty to defacing a National Gallery of Art exhibit was sentenced to 60 days in prison. Joanna Smith, 54, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was accused of .defacing the case around a sculpture by Edgar Degas by smearing red and black paint surrounding Degas' Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen on Apr. 27, 2023. The 1881 artwork is on permanent display at the museum. Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered Smith to serve 24 months of supervised release and 150 hours of community service, of which 10 hours must involve cleaning graffiti, NPR reports. Smith must pay restitution for the damage to the Degas exhibit and was barred from entering the District of Columbia and its museums and monuments for two years. Smith acted with North Carolina-based climate activist Tim Martin, members of the climate activism group Declare Emergency.


The U.S. Attorney's Office said Smith and Martin specifically targeted the artwork. "Smith and the co-conspirator passed through security undetected with paint secreted inside water bottles," prosecutors said. "The duo approached the exhibit, removed the bottles from their bags, and began smearing paint on the case and base." The statement said the National Gallery had to remove the sculpture from public display for 10 days, and that it cost over $4,000 to repair the damage. Around 20 members of Extinction Rebellion NYC and Rise and Resist protested the charges against Martin and Smith and more than 1,000 people signed a petition ahead of the sentencing hearing advocating leniency. Martin's trial is scheduled for Aug. 26.

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