Late that night in January, Sheriff’s Deputies for Columbia County, NY responded to a reported altercation at a house in the rural town of Hillsdale, near the state border with Massachusetts.
They ended up arresting a married couple – the principal of a venerable Philadelphia art school and a well-known artist who teaches at the New York Academy of Art – on a multitude of charges after an apparent domestic incident and confrontation. loaded with exclamations with the police.
The woman has been charged with head butting her husband, pushing a child in, punching a sheriff’s deputy and ripping the camera wires in a police car, according to New York State Court Records. Her husband was accused of possession of illegal weapons, including one with a silencer.
The incident did not receive major media coverage. But Lieutenant John Rivero of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office recalled it as a “great trial.”
“It was a little bit of madness,” Rivero said over the phone.
Almost eight months later, the alleged events of that night appear to be rippling through the Philadelphia arts community.
Elizabeth Grimaldi, the woman who was arrested, quietly resigned as executive director of the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, a position she had held since 2013.
Founded in 1898, Fleisher is a community art school based in South Philadelphia that hosts free workshops, exhibitions, and classes. Its board of directors includes senior officials from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and other notable Philadelphians.
In a statement to The Inquirer, Mark Goodheart, the chairman of the board of Fleisher, confirmed Grimaldi’s resignation, which took effect on Friday. Donors were informed on Tuesday.
“The board is deeply grateful to Liz for her significant contributions throughout her eight-year tenure with the organization,” said Goodheart. “We believe that his passion for making art accessible to all, regardless of economic means, background or artistic experience, has helped make Fleisher a leader in making art available to all. “
Goodheart’s statement did not mention the January arrest of Grimaldi and her husband, Michael, an accomplished artist and director of design at the New York Academy of Art. Michael Grimaldi has also taught artistic anatomy at Drexel University’s College of Medicine. In recent weeks, her resume and other sections of her personal website appear to have been cleaned up.
The arrests were reported over the winter by a few small Hudson Valley websites, and with few details. There was no coverage in Philadelphia or New York. In a statement on Tuesday, Elizabeth Grimaldi said the charges had been dropped, but this could not be independently verified.
Court records describe a chaotic scene after Elizabeth Grimaldi’s 911 call at around 11:15 p.m. on January 22.
According to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, Grimaldi had blood on his head and said her husband put a gun in her mouth. But she was “very uncooperative” and “belligerent” when MPs arrived, they said.
“Don’t talk to me like a fool,” she said to two deputies who were trying to neutralize the situation, according to court records.
They failed to do so.
According to the criminal record, Grimaldi subsequently punched a sheriff’s deputy in the face “with a closed, right-handed fist” and removed the audio wires from a patrol car. In the car, she continued to “struggle”, he said.
“She got ballistic,” said Rivero, the sheriff’s office lieutenant.
Part of the incident was captured on dashcam video. She told police she had been drinking, according to court records.
Grimaldi has been charged with several offenses including assault, endangering the well-being of a child, harassment and criminal mischief. Sheriff’s deputies said she “intentionally” butted Michael Grimaldi in the face and hit him with her hands, and pushed a child in her arms, causing his head slamming him in the face, among other criminal allegations in court records.
After entering the house, MPs recovered what they described as an “unregistered handgun” and Michael Grimaldi was initially charged with criminal possession of a firearm, a felony.
About a week later, authorities filed a second set of charges against him, including criminal possession of a gun silencer and possession of three or more illegal weapons.
The current state of charges against the Grimaldi was unclear on Tuesday.
The Columbia County District Attorney’s Office has not responded to phone calls and emails for several weeks. In early August, the local Hillsdale judge’s clerk said by email that the two cases were “still pending.” Court officials did not respond to three subsequent requests for an update.
In her statement on Tuesday, Grimaldi said Fleisher’s arrest and her resignation were “two unrelated issues,” but she declined to comment on the resignation as she said it had not been finalized. Regarding the arrest, Grimaldi said “the matter is firmly behind me”.
“What I’m happy to say is that Fleisher is a Philadelphia treasure, and it has been a privilege to work with its exceptional faculty and staff,” said Grimaldi. “I am proud of what we have accomplished in eight years, and concluding this mandate with the meaningful role of providing art supplies and classes to more than 10,000 children across the city is a very momentous moment. I will defend its continued success.
“For now, my priority is the health and emotional well-being of my children, who amazed me with their resilience through an unimaginable year of isolation, online school, relocation and divorce,” she declared. “It was emotionally draining to dissolve a marriage while they were in quarantine together and an extremely difficult evening I called the police for help.”
Fleisher officials declined to comment on Grimaldi’s resignation outside of the board’s statement. Before taking over at Fleisher, Grimaldi, 40, was executive director of the Village of Arts and Humanities in North Philadelphia.
Rebecca O’Leary, Art Consultant and Vice-Chair of Fleisher’s Board of Directors, has served as Interim Executive Director and will remain in that position until a permanent replacement is appointed.
Michael Grimaldi, 50, could not be reached for comment. The “contact” section of its website has been removed.