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Climate Activist Pays Price for Defacing Degas’ Little Dancer Sculpture



Clear Facts

  • Joanna Smith, a climate activist, was charged for defacing Edgar Degas’ “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” sculpture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
  • Smith received 60 days of prison time, 24 months of supervised release, and 150 hours of community service. She also paid for the damages to the sculpture and was prohibited from entering the nation’s capital and all museums and monuments for two years.
  • The act of vandalism caused $4,000 worth of damage and “Little Dancer” was removed from the galleries for 10 days for repairs.

Joanna Smith, a 54-year-old climate activist from Brooklyn, New York, has been sentenced to 60 days in prison for vandalizing a case holding the 19th-century French artwork “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” by Edgar Degas. The offence took place at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and Smith faced a maximum possible sentence of five years for this act of defacement.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., confirmed this information in their official release. Alongside the prison term, Smith was also ordered to serve 24 months of supervised release and complete 150 hours of community service.

Smith paid restitution for the damage to the Degas sculpture and has been prohibited from entering the nation’s capital and all museums and monuments for two years.

On April 27, 2023, Smith, along with other accomplices, went to Washington D.C. with the intention of targeting the Degas sculpture. The vandalism involved smearing paint on the base and the clear casing of the sculpture, with some of the individuals striking the 143-year-old priceless artwork with force.

The culprits brought the paint in plastic water bottles and had others record their destructive act. As per the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “Smith, and her accomplices, recorded video statements explaining their intent.” Indeed, the act was calculated and premeditated; they had even alerted two reporters who were present during the act of vandalism.

The incident had significant impact, both materially and culturally. “The April 27 incident caused $4,000 in damage and led to ‘Little Dancer’ being removed from the galleries for 10 days for repairs,” the report said.

The case was thoroughly examined by the FBI’s Art Crime Team from their Washington Field Office. They received help from the National Gallery of Art Police, and U.S. Park Police. This incident underlines the importance of respecting our shared cultural heritage, even as we participate in necessary discussions on climate change.

Let us know what you think, please share your thoughts in the comments below.




  1. Daniel Gray

    May 2, 2024 at 6:34 pm

    She should have been made to replace the statue and the costs for all the people who came to see this work of art. As well as making a public apology or go to prison for 20 years

  2. paul

    May 2, 2024 at 7:20 pm

    Is this the new rule now. Destroy property and get sentenced?

  3. Arlene Rakoncay

    May 2, 2024 at 7:20 pm

    So glad she was punished for defacing the sculpture. I become irate whenever I read about incidents like this. Maybe this case should be published more so anyone who even has a thought about damaging public art should know what to expect.

  4. Born Again

    May 2, 2024 at 9:13 pm

    She and her accomplices should be burned at the stake.

  5. John B Hand

    May 3, 2024 at 4:11 am

    I notice the reporter could not resist making the ‘necessary discussions on climate change’ comment at the end.

  6. Tamituna

    May 3, 2024 at 6:02 am

    She should have gotten five years.

  7. William White

    May 17, 2024 at 7:35 pm

    This sort of childish behavior calls for corporal punishment. Spanking or caning, depending on the age and condition of the person. And he or she should be required to wear a sandwich board when in public “I am a Climate Vandal”
    or something like that.

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