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A view of Saturday’s protest in front of the controversial Prescott mural (via yote.wordpress.com)

After a burst of national outrage over the Prescott School District’s request to “lighten” a mural with a large Latino figure, the School District announced at a pro-mural protest last Saturday that they are ok with the current image and they want the artists to return to the original vision for the mural.

Arizona art blogger & tweeter _yote has a first-person account from last Saturday’s protest:

Well today at 10am was the protest against changing the mural and for diversity. I hastily made my sign at 9:45am and drove down there. I’d love to tell you all what it said but it was so fucking clever I’ll probably be on television tonight. I arrived to … the most positive feeling protest I’ve ever been at … the director of the mural project was amazing. It truly is his time to shine. After R the Superintendent of Yavapai County announced that the mural would not be changed … I thought the super put its perfectly when he said something about how pleased he will be that when he drives by this intersection he will look at the mural and know that the boy is Mario.

The Superintendent’s referred to “Mario” because, according to the Arizona Republic newspaper, all the figures in the mural were drawn from photographs of children enrolled at Miller Valley, a K-5 school with 380 students and the highest ethnic mix of any school in Prescott. The male figure that has triggered the controversy was apparently the image of a boy named Mario.

Protestors in Prescott demonstrate that not everyone is the city is ok with the atmosphere of intolerance that is increasingly becoming a part of the Arizona “brand” (via yote.wordpress.com)

Peace educator, author, and activist Randall Anderson wrote a telling post in the Huffington Post last week, where he laid out the absurdity of the Prescott School’s decision:

In a twisted feat of modernized and imposed “passing,” artists in Prescott have been pressured to “lighten” the dark-skinned faces on a just-completed public mural due to a backlash inspired by a city council member who said that he failed to see “anything that ties the community into that mural.”

In other words, the appearance of a brown-skinned face in the mural is not reflective of the community — despite the fact that demographic data indicates that people of color comprise over 15% of the regional population, and that in Arizona as a whole this demographic represents an estimated one-third of the state’s inhabitants.

Thankfully, saner head have prevailed in Prescott and the school district has decided that the mural will not be changed.

There is a YouTube video of the June 5th protest at Miller Valley Elementary School in Prescott, Arizona, where principal Jeff Lane and Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Kevin Kapp admit they made a mistake and apologize for their decision to lighten children’s faces on the “Go Green” mural.

In the video, Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Kevin Kapp offers some inspirational words for those on both sides of the controversy, “It is ok that this mural has become a major issue … it’s good for the town to stand up once in a while and take a look at itself, and this mural has done that. And Prescott will be a better place for it.”

Let’s hope so.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

11 replies on “Prescott School Says Mural Doesn’t Have to Be “Lightened””

  1. Bravo on the calling attention to this issue here. I am happy to see a little activism on the part of bloggers. It’s all very democratic. One critique though and that is in both pieces cited here there was never any mention of what Arizonan’s wanted, only a snarky
    “I can’t believe this is happening in 2010, but then again, it is Arizona.” What exactly does that mean? Are you really writing off a whole state because they do not conform to your beliefs?

    But anyway, back to my point that this story is part of a larger issue which is the immigration debate surrounding the recent legislation. You won’t hear it reported in the New York Times anytime soon, but lo and behold, the legislation actually represents what the vast majority of Arizonan’s want, which is the government to do something about a totally open border that threatens their state in myriad ways, from crime, to health care costs, to schools.

    The Pew Center’s polls found the following:

    “Fully 73% say they approve of requiring people to produce documents verifying their legal status if police ask for them. Two-thirds (67%) approve of allowing police to detain anyone who cannot verify their legal status, while 62% approve of allowing police to question people they think may be in the country illegally.”

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1591/public-support-arizona-immigration-law-poll

    Again, I applaud Hyperallergic taking a stand, but I simply would have liked to have seen an explication of the other side of the story. There are two sides to everything. Even in Arizona.

    1. I think it’s a horrible injustice to people of all types, and the Arizona law is a form of racial profiling. I do not support it and I think if most Americans knew how absolutely awful the immigration system in this country is they would be appalled.

      The only reason Americans support things like this is because they don’t think it will ever impact their lives, the issues become abstract to them.

      I am assuming you support this law?

      1. I support Arizona’s rights to decide for themselves what laws they live under. And considering they support it overwhelmingly I think lecturing them is anti-democratic. I actually do disapprove of the law, but believe that given what they have to live through, they should be able to decide for themselves.

        Also given the complete failure of the Federal Government to act, it is not surprising that Arizona has taken matters into their own hands.

        1. Most of this is like the issue of gay marriage in the 2004 election, not a real threat. What are they afraid of? Undocumented people taking their jobs? Really? Undocumented people normally do jobs others don’t want to do. I believe this is about scapegoating and fear, but I respect your opinion Zach. Though I don’t think it is undemocratic to disagree with Arizona and what I consider it’s awful law. There is such a thing as tyranny of the majority.

          1. Oh i agree with you on the tyranny of the majority. I dont think just because a majority rules that a minority shouldnt have protections.

            I think the real failure is a lack of articulation. I don’t think Arizonans are afraid of brown people any more than they were afraid of arabs after 9/11. A few instances of harassment but the truth is that the US is a haven for all minorities.

            The issue is that people want the law to be upheld. There are ways to become citizens. It is not easy. It is designed that way. What do you say to the thousands of people who’ve followed the letter of the law when seeking citizenship, who waited, and waded through the bureacracy and finally got their papers. What do you (and I don’t mean you personally, obv) say to them?

            Again, politics in this country is broken because of a breakdown in language. The real issue, as I see it, is that people, and their elected politicians can’t explain what they feel, and that is that there is something truly serious about a country like ours not being able to protect our border. Our borders should be secure, not so we can keep people out who want to come, no we WANT THEM. But so we can feel whole as a nation and know that our government is doing the most basic of its very reasons for existence. All the other fear mongering and bickering and racial profiling yadda, comes from that.

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