It’s official: The San Francisco Board of Education voted unanimously to permanently cover the multi-panel mural depicting different times in the life of George Washington.
The board voted either to install permanent panels over the mural, which will cost $600,000, or to paint over it, which will require a $500,00 environmental study and then professional painting, for a total cost of around $600,000.
The board decided against installing curtains because they could be removed at a later date, allowing people to see the offensive mural.
Detractors of the mural claim it causes discomfort among students, but it was hard to find many who thought about it, much less felt any emotion about it.
Lope Yap Jr., the vice president of the school’s alumni association, said:
“The content and the art quality is priceless. Every day — in contrast to opponents — teachers, librarians use it as a teaching point. No matter where I go, no matter who I meet, 85 percent of people are in favor of retaining the murals.”
The mural was painted by Victor Arnautoff, a Russian-born artist, social realist and Communist who was critical of the country’s first president. The panels showed Washington overseeing slaves picking cotton and explorers walking past the corpse of a Native American.
Still the school board felt the mural somehow negatively affected minority communities, even though it emphasized negative aspects of the first president’s life.
Board President Stevon Cook said:
“There’s been this whole discussion about whitewashing history as if a mural is the only way to talk about history, or as if that history is an accurate depiction of the full experiences of people of that time. I think that argument really limits the nuances in how dynamic that time was and all the contributions African slaves made to the country, that indigenous Americans gave to settlers. To think that those two depictions are it is baffling.”
Apparently Mr. Cook is against all murals, paintings, and other scene depictions, because it’s not possible to depict all nuances of a period of time in such a medium. He hasn’t said whether or not he will work to remove the statue of George Washington that stands nearby.