NCAC is asking the University of Kentucky (UK) to cancel recently announced plans to remove a 1930’s-era mural depicting aspects of Kentucky history, including slavery. Some students have demanded its removal because they consider it demeaning to people of color on campus.
In 2018, the university commissioned an installation by Karyn Olivier, a noted Black artist, that was painted above the mural and is intended as a response to it. In a Washington Post op-ed, Olivier has expressed her disappointment that the university is abandoning its commitment to encouraging dialogue about the mural.
“The day I completed my response to the mural was the day the university’s real work needed to begin,” Olivier writes. “Instead, removing the mural chooses silence, erasure and avoidance over engagement, investigation and real reconciliation. Is the hope that we’ll simply forget our shared history?”
In a July 1 letter to UK president Eli Capilouto, NCAC noted that removing the mural also negates Olivier’s work. The full letter to the University is available below. Click here for a full-screen view.
Author and poet Wendell Berry, a graduate of the university, has filed a lawsuit in an effort to block the destruction of the mural.