MICHIGAN CITY — The president of the Dunes Summer Theatre is asking for help identifying vandals who broke into the theater and spray painted vulgar images in and outside of the Michigan City performing arts space.
Dunes Arts Foundation President Amy Black took to social media Sunday sharing photos of the vulgar images scrawled in black and red paint across all sides of the building.
Black said she first learned of the vandalism, believed to be committed overnight Saturday into Sunday, when the county sheriff knocked on her door.
A neighbor living close to the theater was on a walk, enjoying their morning coffee, when they passed by the theater and immediately called police, Black said she was told.
"It's just heartbreaking," Black said.
The Dunes Summer Theatre building, which typically reopens in April for the Dunes Arts Foundation's summer season, has remained closed the last several weeks due to statewide precautionary stay at home orders issued due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
If not for the spread of the novel coronavirus, Black said it's possible the theater could have been occupied when the vandals broke in.
"This would not have happened because we would've been there," Black said. "Come April, we're there morning and night."
With limited electricity turned on inside the building, Black said it's been difficult to assess the full extent of the damage or whether any items have been stolen.
Bricks were thrown through four to five windows, Black said. Spray-painted genitalia and a derogatory term used against LGBTQ individuals line the walls inside and out of the theater, leading Black to question if the vandalism could constitute as a hate crime.
Black said the theater does have insurance, but its deductible is high.
The affront couldn't have come at a worse time as the Dunes Arts Foundation considers canceling its summer season as social distancing continues. As a nonprofit, Black said the theater does not apply for many forms of coronavirus relief currently being offered to small businesses.
"Without summer sales, this is a double whammy for us," Black said. "This would've been our fourth summer. People were just learning about us and really rejoicing the place."
Black said she believes younger people, possibly teens in the neighborhood, may be to blame for the vandalism.
The theater has turned over its own security cameras and Black is asking for those in the neighborhood to consider doing the same with any Ring doorbell cameras or similar devices. She said she hopes a lesson can be learned from the experience.
"We're hoping these kids will be brought forward," Black said. "The parents know, so we're asking the parents to come on. Have a really hard conversation with your kids, and have them step up and do the right thing."
Black said she anticipates a volunteer clean-up effort will be organized in the near future. To learn more about the Dunes Arts Foundation and its programs, visit its website at dunesartsfoundation.org/support.