Letters to the Editor

Letters: Controversial UK mural ‘causes present pain’, but ‘history is history’

‘I’m not expecting everyone to like it.’ Artist reimagines controversial UK mural.

Artists Karyn Olivier and Jay C. Lohmann convert the dome ceiling of University of Kentucky's Memorial Hall entrance into public art to contextualize a controversial mural found within the building made by Ann Rice O'Hanlon in 1934.
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Artists Karyn Olivier and Jay C. Lohmann convert the dome ceiling of University of Kentucky's Memorial Hall entrance into public art to contextualize a controversial mural found within the building made by Ann Rice O'Hanlon in 1934.

Mural hurtful

I respect differing opinions on the mural in the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Hall, especially that of Wendell Berry who wrote an eloquent essay a while back defending the integrity and intentions of the artist. But asking African-American students to take what to them and many others is a picture of raw racism and to daily translate it with the help of some limited context into something benign is just too much to ask. The larger context is that Kentucky’s past and much of its present is deeply racist. Has the artist’s good intentions been understood as such by most viewers over the decades?

The fact is that the mural causes present pain and that it’s not off in some corner, but in a central university location. William Faulkner said the past is always with us, that it’s not even past. Those who want only parts of our history preserved should remember that. The mural is not a simple picture of African-Americans toiling in the fields. To some it’s a celebration of slavery, an insult, a hurt, a reminder of the daily racism they face. It needs to come down.

Joseph G. Anthony, Lexington

‘History is history’

Karyn Olivier is to be commended for her reasoned, thoughtful letter to the University of Kentucky (and broader) community on the concerns about art work on display in Memorial Hall. She offers a fair and objective perspective that calls for careful consideration by those who seem so disturbed. It is fitting that the O’Hanlon mural and Olivier’s commissioned contextual work are in Memorial Hall, a focal point of UK’s campus, and a location suited to depicting Kentucky’s history. History is history, not always admired, but it is who we have been, guiding and leading us to where we want to be as time evolves.

Those who wish to revise, cover, or destroy depictions of our history are shortsighted, selfish, and disrespectful of their elders who have built this world, flawed as it may be, in which we live. Their compassion is admirable but their methods less so. May we all heed Olivier’s message.

Ann and Bob Rogers, Lexington

Over 100 University of Kentucky students with the Black Student Advisory Council and Basic Needs Campaign met with Uk President Eli Capilouto on a number of issues and demands ranging from food insecurity to racism on campus.

A will, a way

Concerning the meeting University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto had with a coalition of student protestors who were concerned about insecurity in food and housing, I want to offer a different perspective.

Thousands of students have gone to UK before these students and they have figured out how to get by when wanting to get an education, but having little financial resources to accomplish same.

In my case, I grew tobacco, worked in tobacco fields and bagged groceries. Friends of mine worked concession stands, night-clerked at hotels and served as waiters at sorority houses — whatever it took to make their situation work.

I wonder if Capilouto didn’t miss a “teachable moment” when he met with protestors. He could have asked them had they explored all of the possibilities for solving their situation and challenged them to search for their own personal solution.

My grandchildren have some scholarship credit, but they supplement that by mowing yards, making jewelry, caddying for golfers, etc. My daughter has told them that nobody owes them anything.

On a personal level, I believe if an individual searches for independence, they will find it and in the process gain self-esteem and self-confidence.

Charles Adams, Georgetown

Report foreordained

Did no one tell President Donald Trump that he had nothing to worry about from the Mueller investigation? Or were the witch-hunt rants just to make the public think the conclusion was not foreordained? The wealthy Republicans take care of their own and an attorney general was in place to make sure of that. Will the public ever see the full report? I have my doubts.

Republicans should ask themselves why Russia wanted Trump elected. Did they want the United States to have the smartest and most competent president? I think not.

Barbara Howard, Morehead

Let’s see the report

You and I paid for the Mueller Report. Even if Mexico paid for it, I firmly believe and think that, in a democracy, we have the right to read it even if it takes forever.

John C. Wolff Jr., Lexington