URI has moved back a step from the ledge of mural destruction.
The University of Rhode Island has reconsidered its plan to destroy an iconic mural in its student union. Christian Schneider reports for The College Fix:
The murals, painted by URI graduate Arthur Sherman in the 1950s, came under criticism last summer because their depiction of what life at the school was like in the post-war era featured almost exclusively white people. According to the school, the paintings lacked “diversity and a sensitivity to today’s complex and painful problems.”
But the school has reversed course, saying the murals will stay, with “necessary context regarding the original intent of the murals” added. The school will also contract for a new work of art “in similar size and impact” to “depict diverse university life as it is today.”
There’s still some room for mischief, of course. What form and tone will that “necessary context” take? What exactly is the university’s vision of the “diverse university life as it is today”? Will it be honest, or will it be an idealization of the progressives’ vision? Will it be fun and inclusive or angry and divisive?
As I wrote last year, on the Ocean State Current, the problem wasn’t so much the decision to move on from the mural as the attitude behind it, which forbade creative solutions:
The problem, here, isn’t so much the removal of the mural. As Sherman says (while demurring from stating his feelings about removal of his art), “time goes by and things change.” The problem is the motivation and the approach.
In a word, the move is negatory, not additive. We’re raising generations of children who, as young adults, can be made uncomfortable by a fun scene from the ’50s, and their solution is to complain. Then, the administration’s solution is to capitulate and respond by erasing the history.
How many creative alternatives could be found if our society were not so far deteriorated? Imagine if alumni from multiple generations of URI graduates were invited to paint their own characters on Plexiglas that would be attached to the wall to add them to the mural. Or maybe free-standing statues or two-dimensional figures could be added throughout the space that produce a complete picture when viewed from a particular angle. Or maybe, the art could become interactive, like one of those old puzzles where different layers of drawings can be placed over others to create still-coherent, but sometimes humorous or meaningful hybrids. No doubt, multiple creative people could come up with better ideas.
And if a portion of the original mural had to give way to make space for the modification, objections would be minimal because of the wholly different angle from which the change was approached.