Research, context will dictate mural decision


Melynda Price

Committee holds bi-monthly meetings to brainstorm solutions

The controversial fresco by Ann Rice O’Hanlon adorning the lobby of Memorial Hall was one of the few art projects completed by a woman during former president Franklin Roosevelt’s Works and Progress Administration, and has been the subject of debate for what some people perceive as a derogatory depiction of African-American and Native American people.

Last week President Eli Capilouto announced the formation of a committee to find a solution. The committee members include a student, several UK professors, and former LexArts CEO Jim Clark.

The 13 committee members have met twice so far and plan on meeting every two weeks indefinitely until a solution is reached.

“This committee’s work is multifaceted, and it will take time in order to produce a good result, and a very carefully analyzed result that will be sustained,” Interim Vice President for Institutional Diversity and committee chair Terry Allen said.

The committee intends to deeply research and contextualize the fresco before reaching a decision. So far, ideas have been suggested such as an oral history project with alumni and staff detailing their experiences with the mural or more commissioned works on campus by black artists. The fresco, depicting African-Americans as slaves, is one of the most well-known, and rare works on campus depicting African Americans.

Geography professor and committee member Richard Schein has used the mural in his urban geography class to, “discuss the ways in which race plays a role in telling stories about the past.”

“Ultimately I believe that the stories we tell in and through landscapes are not just about the past, but also are claims on the present and the future, and having those conversations is a way in which we can intervene in the world to make it a better place,“ Schein wrote in an email to the Kentucky Kernel.

Director of the African-American and Africana studies program and head of the committee Melynda Price enlisted students to contribute to the solution. 

“What do the caretakers of the mural think?” Price said. “What does the community think?”

Ideas and comments can be sent to [email protected].

By Lee Mengistu

[email protected]