University of Kentucky officials will eventually unveil a controversial mural in Memorial Hall that was shrouded last year and will surround it with other works of art and more context, President Eli Capilouto announced Thursday on his blog.
The mural — painted in the 1930s by Ann Rice O’Hanlon — has been criticized for years because of its depictions of blacks and native Americans as it portrays Lexington’s history. Last year, amid a discussion about UK’s treatment of minority students, Capilouto ordered the painting covered up and appointed a task force to decide its future.
“Now, as the committee recommended, it is time to tell the story more completely and through the eyes of many experiences — preserving the art as part of our history, but adding to it to tell a more complete and sensitively rendered story of our human experience,” Capilouto wrote.
Over the coming semester, the mural will be unveiled and surrounded with “other works of art from a variety of perspectives that provide a larger narrative of our history, our aspirations, our shortcomings and the progress we still must make,” he wrote.
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The task force recommended that the art in Memorial Hall be commissioned from artists of color, said Anastasia Curwood, a history professor and task force member.
“The committee wants to commission works of art from a diverse group of artists, and I like that part of it because I wanted people of color to produce their representations to be in dialogue with the mural,” Curwood said.
In addition, digital boards in the lobby will tell the history of the mural and O’Hanlon. Officials also will schedule more programming in Memorial Hall, including discussions, classes and events, that focus on race and identity from many perspectives. Capilouto also is urging a larger conversation about public art on campus.
“I thought we came up with a good plan for the mural, but we also wanted to emphasize that the mural is only one piece of a much larger task of producing a truly diverse and inclusive UK,” Curwood said.
To that end, Capilouto released five “pillars” to improve diversity on campus. Many of the recommendations came out of a series of campus meetings on race and diversity last year. They include:
▪ Increase accessibility to resources and funding for organizations, scholarships and programming. As an example, Capilouto said, last year about 100 students from under-represented groups received “persistence grants,” which help with unmet financial need.
▪ Restructure the Office of Institution Diversity to make it more effective.
▪ Create better benchmarks for diversity and accountability. Those include the 2015 strategic plan, which requires closing achievement gaps between different student groups.
▪ Increase the number of black, Hispanic and Native American professors and staff, as well as increasing retention.
▪ Create a core curriculum class on race and ethnicity.
“Those pillars sound great,” Curwood said. “I hope they come to fruition.”