A controversial Works Progress Administration mural depicting a dead Native American that dates to the Great Depression at George Washington High School. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SF school board president proposes covering, not destroying, mural

Board of Education President Stevon Cook said he will introduce the proposal at Tuesday’s board meeting.

  • Aug. 9, 2019 6:53 p.m.

The president of the San Francisco Unified School District school board said Friday he will ask his board to cover the controversial “Life of Washington” mural that has been the topic of debate.

Board of Education President Stevon Cook said he will introduce the proposal at Tuesday’s board meeting to preserve the mural at George Washington High School without destroying it.

“I am pleased to propose this solution to the controversy over the objectionable content depicted in the mural,” said Cook. “I am introducing a vote at our next regular Board of Education meeting to cover-over the mural with panels or another similar treatment, which will preserve the artwork and not destroy it. This should satisfy those who were concerned about the possible destruction of art.”

He said it is important to note that there are strong passions on both sides of the debate.

“Where we all agree is that the mural depicts the racist history of America, especially in regards to African Americans and Native Americans. It is important that we all share the agreement and acknowledgement of racism, discrimination, and the dehumanizing of people of color and women in American history,” Cook said.

The board voted unanimously in June to paint over a controversial New Deal-era mural by Russian artist Victor Arnautoff, which depicts enslaved African Americans shucking corn and white colonizers towering over a dead Native American, among other things.

Members of the school’s community have criticized the mural as demeaning and traumatizing to minority students and efforts to remove it date back more than five decades.

However the vote has triggered backlash from groups including arts preservationists and members of the school’s alumni association which is organizing a ballot measure to overturn the board’s decision this November.

This is a developing story.

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