In December 2018, the superintendent of a Los Angeles school district decided to remove a mural on display on the exterior wall of RFK Community Schools’ high school gym after some members of the surrounding community complained that visual elements of the mural resembled the Rising Sun flag of Imperialist Japan. The mural, by artist Beau Stanton, was created as part of an arts initiative at the school, which involved workshops and seminars with students. After intervention from artists, advocates and community groups, a compromise has been reached that will allow the mural to remain with Stanton overseeing changes to the work.

Throughout this controversy, Stanton has engaged with the school district, community advocates and others to collaborate on a solution. He reflected on the outcome:

“Over the past several months I have had the opportunity to meet with a diverse cross section of stakeholders regarding my mural at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools including students, faculty, fellow artists, and members of the Koreatown Community.  These interactions have allowed me to synthesize a solution that aims to rise above the original binary conversation of “keep or remove the mural” in order to build upon the original work and create something that speaks to the past, present, and future of the RFK campus.  My proposal involves creating a transformative work utilizing the original mural as a base for layering and weaving additional imagery into the original image much like an urban wall with many historic layers.  Parts of the original will remain visible while focusing on themes related to the important conversation that the original work had initiated.

While I cannot yet speak to the imagery that will become central to the new work, I am interested in hearing from the students and greater K-town community regarding suggestions for symbols that hold positive personal meaning as well as visual reference specific to the area’s diverse history.  These contributions will be collected and integrated into an on campus workshop where I can work with the students of RFK in order to design final work.
As we move forward with the next chapter of this conversation, I would like to thank fellow muralists Shepard Fairey, Hueman, Cyrcle, Greg Mike, James Bullough, and Jonah Meelan as well as Maxwell Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Paul Schrade who all spoke out in defense of freedom of expression which was instrumental in creating the space to have this important conversation. I would also like to thank GYOPO and other Korean-American organizations who shared their valuable perspectives and offered constructive dialogue critical to reaching a solution.  Lastly, I would like to thank LAUSD for revising their original decision and offering the support necessary for achieving a thoughtful and balanced conclusion.”
The school district will re-allocate the funds earmarked for removal to fund the work of altering the mural.
NCAC commends the school district and Stanton for coming to this agreement that engages the community and prevents the destruction of the mural.