PRESS RELEASE: S.F. School Board Approves Amendment to Cover “Life of Washington” Mural
San Francisco (August 13, 2019) – The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) Board of Education voted to remove the “Life of Washington” mural from view by covering it without destroying it, amending its June 25 vote to paint over the mural unless doing so would result in undue delay.
With a vote of four to three, the Board’s action taken tonight authorized staff to develop a project, assessing a range of alternatives, for the purposes of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review that removes from public view the Arnautoff mural at George Washington High School using solid panels or equivalent material. The mural will be digitized as well, so that art and art historians can access it, but it will no longer be on public view at the school.
“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,” said School Board President Stevon Cook.
Earlier this year the District convened an 11-member community advisory committee (CAC) to address longstanding public concerns over objectionable content depicted in the 13-panel “Life of Washington” mural, located in the administration building at George Washington High School. The controversial mural, commissioned by the U. S. Government in 1936 under a New Deal-era art program, was painted by the late Victor Arnautoff using the fresco technique . Fresco mural painting is done on wet plaster; once the plaster dries, the mural becomes a permanent, integral part of the wall it was painted on. The CAC supported permanently removing the offensive content of the mural by painting over it.
“This is an issue that is dividing our city when we really need to be coming together in service of our students. I know this alternative is harmful to those who wanted to paint it over and there are people in the preservation community who think we’re going too far by covering the mural,” said Cook.
“Our schools need to be places where all students feel safe, seen and supported.”
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