University of Kentucky president Eli Capilouto announced Nov. 22 the Board of Trustees has set aside funds to make university spaces more inclusive, including removing and relocating the controversial mural in the university's Memorial Hall.
The mural has been a topic of debate over the years because of the depiction of African Americans in the 1934 fresco by Ann Rice O’Hanlon. The removal is part of millions authorized by the board to renovate university spaces. Capilouto said he is working towards making the university a more inclusive space, especially during the recent events where a white student was caught on video repeatedly using racial slurs towards a Black student.
"For many, Memorial Hall is an iconic building in the heart of our campus. For many others, it is a space where a mural, in place since the 1930s, depicts in a distorted fashion the way enslaved people and other marginalized peoples were treated in Kentucky," Capilouto said in a statement.
Capilouto announced the intention of removing the mural in June 2020, but met with a lawsuit that Kentucky author Wendell Berry filed against the university and criticism from the National Coalition Against Censorship.
According to the lawsuit, the mural is a publicly-owned piece of art that promotes education, and it would be unsafe to remove.
The university is in mediation with Berry which is delaying establishing a time for removal or setting a spot for relocation of the mural, said Jay Blanton, the university's spokesperson. He said the president is forming a group to get suggestions on the programming and design of the space.
Since the 1970s, people have complained, "alleging racist overtones in the mural, criticisms which are based on O'Hanlon's depiction of blacks in 'demeaning, stereotyped' attitudes and roles," according to the University of Kentucky libraries.
Along with removal of the mural, Capilouto said the university is also investing in mental health resources for students and refocusing the job done by diversity and inclusion officers in each of the colleges and units.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: UK's controversial mural to be removed, relocated from Memorial Hall