UK to cover controversial mural following meeting with students

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto says the university will cover a mural that has been a point of contention for decades.

The move comes two weeks after Capilouto hosted a sit down with two dozen black students -- undergraduate, graduate and professional students -- who detailed the emotions stirred up by the mural in Memorial Hall.

The mural, Capilouto said in a statement, is an "artistic presentation of contrasts and contradictions" but he acknowledged the hurt it caused some students.

"A product of the 1930s perspective of the artist and her times, we are left today with the task of confronting the unsettling questions it raises for our sense of community," he said. "And it is a point of deeply held concern for the two dozen Black and African American students who talked with me and other members of the University administration two weeks ago."

The meeting was held about three days after University of Missouri's systems president resigned amid protests over racial discrimination on campus. Capilouto's meeting was scheduled weeks before the incidents unfolded at Mizzou, but UK students joined a national social media campaign that used the hashtag "Not Just Mizzou."

UK students posted several Tweets about microaggresions they've encountered on campus, including the mural at Memorial Hall.

At the time, Blanton told WKYT that the mural, which was commissioned in 1934 as a Public Works of Art Project, had been a matter of concern for students over the years "because of its depiction of Lexington’s history, part of which shows slaves and Native Americans."

On Monday, Capilouto noted that while the mural is a piece of history, it was created at a time when the campus was void diversity.

"But remember this: the mural was created at a time and in a place when there were no African American students or faculty. The educational benefit of diversity was not recognized as a value. Fortunately, our community is very different now — compellingly diverse and more complete," the university president wrote.

The time "is long past for us to confront this reality," Capilouto said in Monday's post, adding that during that three-hour meeting at his home, he told the students that he would seriously consider their concerns. He said they would shroud or cover the mural from view and include an on-site explanation for why they have taken this action. That, he said, is the short term solution. That will give them time to develop a long-term answer.

"This is but one step in a series we must take as a campus community to be the kind of welcoming and inclusive place we want to be for everyone who calls this University home," he wrote. "I hope that for us, this prominent artwork — what it depicts and how we address the questions it raises for so many in our community today — can help us take another step forward in our journey together toward reconciliation."

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