Downtown mural memorializes domestic violence victims, highlights available resources
Around the corner from the downtown shop where Erin Berg worked for nearly two decades is a small, brightly painted mural to commemorate the lives of Berg and her young daughter.
Artist Margot Day, a friend of Berg’s, said she wanted the mural to memorialize them, but not to exclude how they were killed. Day said when coming up with the mural design, she spoke with co-workers, friends and family members of Berg, and it was agreed.
“We didn’t want to just remember them, we wanted to prevent this from happening again,” Day said.
Berg, 36, and her 3-year-old daughter, Mazey Berg, were killed Aug. 13 in a double murder-suicide outside Lawrence. Mazey’s father, Peter Sander, 41, shot them before fatally shooting himself in what Berg’s obituary described as “a senseless act of domestic violence.”
The mural, located in the breezeway in the 800 block of Massachusetts Street, is a nature scene that Day said represents Berg and Mazey’s lives, but also includes a message. The mural includes the words “for help call 211,” referring to a toll-free anonymous helpline. The helpline is staffed 24/7 with a specialist who can refer callers to local social services, such as domestic violence shelters, mental health counseling or crisis intervention.
Day said the hope is to do something productive with what happened to Berg and her daughter by raising awareness about the prevalence of domestic abuse, both physical and emotional, and connecting people to help.
“The worst thing we can do is nothing,” Day said. “To do nothing, to not acknowledge it, to not talk about it, only ensures that that kind of action will happen again.”
Berg was a certified gemologist and worked for 18 years near the site of the mural, at Kizer Cummings Jewelers, 833 Massachusetts St. Berg was known to many in Lawrence through that job and later through her glass-blowing business, Wild Plum Glass. She specialized in creating pendants and other glass art inlaid with the ashes of loved ones or pets.
Domestic violence affects millions of people in the U.S. annually, according to National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. Nearly one in four women and one in seven men experience severe physical violence by a current or former intimate partner in their lifetimes, according to the survey.
Berg’s mother, Kim Thomason, previously told the Journal-World that Berg had left Sander and moved out of his Lawrence home just over a year ago. Sander killed Berg and Mazey while they were in town to visit him.
Lawrence’s Willow Domestic Violence Center voiced support for the mural project, which was approved by the City Commission in October. Willow Director of Community Engagement Will Averill said that getting the word out about their services is a constant effort, and that 211 provides a central way to highlight all the available community resources.
“Downtown traffic is pretty ubiquitous and people are always walking by,” Averill said. “Hopefully this will be another way to let people know that these services are here, because one thing we as community engagement directors are always fighting is that gap in awareness.”
The images in the mural also carry meaning. The mural includes two mountains, a larger one leaning over a small one, that Day said represent Berg and her daughter. Day said she chose a mountain to represent Berg because she was someone who people looked up to for strength.
Day said that Berg was also known for her positivity, and beside the scene are the words “celebrate every sunrise.” Day said she settled on the phrase after looking through Berg’s posts on social media.
“I noticed that she would celebrate everything,” Day said. “I think that was the most common word on her Instagram, was celebration.”
In a letter of support for the project, Thomason said she feels empowered by the mural’s depiction of Berg and Mazey’s lives. Thomason noted that Berg’s compassion for people she encountered made her well known downtown, and that she “wholeheartedly supports” the mural project.
“I feel like this mural is so much more than just a symbol of their shining lives, but an icon of hope for the community she so fervently loved,” Thomason wrote.