Over the past several months, anonymous poster-sized images have appeared across the town of Middlebury. There are two graphics, one of the character Mia Wallace from “Pulp Fiction” played by Uma Thurman, and one of two hands grabbing a bottle labeled with the number 40; some include the mysterious letters E M S W I D written along the bottom. In addition to Middlebury, the images have been seen in the town of Vergennes, as well as on Route 7 toward Burlington. The Campus has not received reports of any such images having been seen on campus.
In the town of Middlebury, the posters have been spotted on several traffic light control boxes, on the sides of buildings and on dumpsters.
The arrival of these images has created some questions for town residents: are they artwork, or graffiti? Do they contain a secret message, or is their meaning meant for each interpreter to decide themselves? According to The Addison Independent, public opinion is divided. More definitive, though, is the widespread sense of intrigue among locals.
Many Middlebury residents have questions about the mysterious images that a Reddit thread called “Banksy-esque stickers in Addison County” was created at the end of November to discuss the phenomenon. Residents also asked questions on Front Porch Forum, specifically about the significance of the letters.
No phrase has been found yet that matches the acronym E M S W I D. Some Reddit users speculated that the images are intended to raise awareness about substance abuse, as the bottle appears to be a 40 oz. bottle of malt liquor, and the image from “Pulp Fiction” depicts a scene in which the character overdoses.
While some people have objected to the works, others are satisfied sitting back and letting the art speak for itself. Some have said that only the artist can say what their work means, but the creator of the images has not been found. According to The Addison Independent, local law enforcement suspects that the artist is part of a local community of graffiti artists, and that these works are related to others that have popped up in the area.
Unsurprisingly, there has been some frustration expressed in the local community, as posting images without permission is technically vandalism. The Addison Independent reported, however, that the stickers are not a top priority for local law enforcement, because they feel there is no indication of hurtful intent.
Residents reportedly first spotted the images in June 2021, after the end of the college’s spring term, perhaps making it more unlikely that the creator of the images is a Middlebury student. This is consistent with the fact that no graffiti has been found on Middlebury’s campus.
But what do Middlebury students make of the artwork?
Britt Lange ’24, who is enrolled in “Studio Art 1: Drawing” this J-Term, said she believes the images are art.
“I definitely think that’s art. I guess it depends on what kind of graffiti it is … But if it means something, if it represents something, it’s art. Especially if someone is making the art purposely anonymous, it’s meant for interpretation,” Lange said.
Though the artwork’s creator and their exact meaning remain unknown, the images have certainly captured the attention of town residents, becoming a topic of intrigue and reflection.
Julia Pepper '24 (she/her) is the Senior Local Editor.
She previously served as a Local Editor. She is a Psychology major and French minor. This past spring she studied in Paris. She spent the summer interning at home in New York City, putting her journalistic cold calling skills to use at her internship doing outreach with senior citizens. In her free time she enjoys reading and petting cats.