Image via artist’s website, beaustanton.com

UPDATE 12/17/18:

LAUSD has postponed its plans to remove the mural until after the holidays. Watch this space for updates

Original post:

The superintendent of a Los Angeles school district has unilaterally 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 National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) strongly disagrees with this decision and urges the school district to reconsider.

This mural was created as part of an arts initiative at the school, which involved workshops and seminars with students.

We understand that the Kennedy Foundation grant-funded mural was vetted by the school district and is intended as an homage to actress Ava Gardner. The surrounding rays are a common device found in many of artist Beau Stanton’s murals. We also understand that some community members — represented by the Wilshire Community Coalition — are offended by the rays, which they associate with the Japanese imperialist flag, and have called for the erasure of the entire mural.

While we appreciate LAUSD’s effort to distance itself from the hateful sentiments the mural’s rays may evoke for members of the WCC, removing the mural in response to their complaints sets a dangerous precedent of submission to public pressure in assessing art and allowing students’ access to diverse viewpoints and ideas.

We strongly urge LAUSD to affirm its commitment to freedom of expression by reversing the decision to erase the mural.  Instead, we encourage LAUSD to create forums for dialogue, to bring the school and the community into conversation. We also urge LAUSD to consult with a diverse body of community representatives, including teachers and students.

By keeping the mural up, LAUSD can allow RFK Community Schools to model its stated vision of “openness to different perspectives (that) fosters empathy, integrity, collaboration and mutual respect” in a vibrant learning community.

NCAC has offered guidance for LAUSD school administrators on the principled display of controversial artworks and developing clear guidelines for arts initiatives.

Sign this petition to let district officials know that you support for public art in the Los Angeles Unified School District!