The vandal or vandals also sprayed a fire extinguisher around the room and let the water runover in the upstairs bathrooms. The Whit is still taking inventory on its losses.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The head of the Whitney Center for the Arts thinks the extensive vandalism to the nonprofit venue this past weekend may have been personally motivated.
The 8-year-old "the Whit," housed in the 1865 Colt House on Wendell Avenue was a chaotic scene of trashed furniture and water damage when the only other tenant in the building entered Monday morning.
And Executive Director Ghazi Kazmi believes what happened was more malicious than a simple case of vandalism.
"They went into every single office that was locked or unlocked; they broke into it and ransacked it," he said. "They just did everything possible they could to hurt the Whit."
Kazmi said the center has been closed since the outset of the pandemic with only one tenant accessing the building for office space. He said this tenant noticed the vandalism Monday morning.
"He called me and I went over not thinking much about it but when I got there I realized how brutally vandalized it was," he said.
At first he and the Pittsfield Police detective investigating were under the impression that it was a simple act of vandalism, he said, but looking deeper into the situation it would appear to be a more targeted act of aggression.
"This wasn't drunk or drug behavior. This was a deliberate act and they wanted to destroy something near and dear to me personally and the Whit itself," he said.
Kazmi said his office took the brunt of the damage.
"In my office, they expressed more violence than in any other office or room and for good measure, they even sprayed the fire extinguisher," he said. "I really believe it was a personal attack."
In contrast, the tenant's office was left untouched and even though some equipment was destroyed or thrown outside, much of the art in the building was left alone. The center hosts two art galleries along with its performance spaces.
Furthering the damage, the perpetrator(s) turned on some of the functioning bathtubs on the upper levels and left them running.
"They ran all night Saturday, all day Sunday, and all night Sunday," he said. "Water just seeped through from the second floor to the first floor. There was enough water on the first floor to get into the basement."
Kazmi said the water damage is the biggest headache right now but he was able to hire a company to clean up the building and restore it.
"We need to get rid of the water and moisture because this is an 1866 building. It is old," he said. "We want to make sure we can save as much as possible."
How much it will cost to clean up and make repairs is unknown but he said the time estimate is about a month to clean up and another month or so to make repairs.
"It is going to be a lot but luckily we are insured so we should be OK -- but the headache," he said. "I just wish they would have come in and robbed us."
As for the equipment, Kazmi said a consultant will have to be hired to see what has been damaged beyond repair and what still works.
He added that he also has to take inventory of all equipment to see if anything has gone missing.
When asked about suspects, Kazmi noted that he most definitely did not suspect the tenant who reported the vandalism. In fact, he had a hard time picking out who would do such a thing.
"Fortunately, I can't think of any enemy who would do this," he said.
He did note some two years ago an individual broke into the Whit and stole some sound equipment that later surfaced for sale online. This person was charged and he thought there may be a connection worth exploring.
Kazmi said they need leads and asked anyone with information to call the police.
"We need to hear if someone is bragging about this because when someone does something like this I think for them it's like a badge of honor," he said. "Someone is going to talk about it so if you hear something, please speak up."
One bright spot: Kazmi did say he was thankful for the outpouring of support he received on social media.
"There was an outpouring of support from the community. I got a lot of sympathy and encouragement. We are overwhelmed and touched beyond words," he said. "I am confident that someone will slip up. Nothing can change what happened and we still have to go through all of this. It hurts to see what some people are capable of doing."