Monday, November 23, 2015

"Old South" Mural to be Covered Up at University of Kentucky

With all the discussion over monument removal or reinterpretation and, more recently, student protests on various college campuses, these stories have occurred around the country. Now one has reached my alma mater, the University of Kentucky.

They will now remove or cover up a mural in Memorial Hall, one of the signature buildings on the campus, because of its portrayal of slavery in the old South. Here is a link to the story 

The U.K. Logo, used on much of the school's material and stationary. The tower image between the "U" and "K" is from the top of Memorial Hall.

I was in the building several times while attending the school, but don't recall seeing the mural in question. It was never an issue when I was there and I never noticed it. I have attached a small image of it from the story I saw today. It is not a great picture, but is the best I have.

My initial thought is: a university is an institute of learning, but does covering up or removing an image of the state and region's past help accomplish that?

Of course, I do not want students at the school to be offended, but how do we balance that with the educational mission of the school? Not everything in history is feel-good or non-offensive. Some very bad things happened. Do we next try to remove references to such things from textbooks?

I guess another question is if such a painting is artwork to hang on a wall just to look at, or is it another way to learn and to think, different than the usual books and lectures? Is provoking thought a goal of art? If "a picture is worth a thousand words" cannot such images be used to teach history, in this case about both the era of slavery and of the 1930s when this work was commissioned? Could moving such an image to a museum or other similar setting help give this piece educational value Or is it simply more important to avoid offense or discomfort in all cases? I don't take offense to much, even stuff I don't like, but not everyone is the same way. 

If I see any more updates on this, I will share them, either here or on Facebook

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