‘I think middle school children can understand that you have to look at art from the past with a little indulgence…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) A Chicago middle school recently removed a historic mural that shows white families ice skating, claiming it no longer “reflects or represents” the current diversity of the school and community.
Julian Middle School Principal Todd Fitzgerald sent a letter to parents claiming multiple students had approached him with complaints about the mural.
“I have recently had a number of conversations with students and parents about the mural,” Fitzgerald wrote, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“The students and parents who approached the administration felt that the mural did not reflect or represent the diversity of our student body, school or community. As a district, we are working diligently to achieve equity and promote a greater sense of inclusion and belonging in all of our schools. With these goals and the concerns of our families in mind, we decided to pursue the removal of the mural.”
The mural, titled “Child and Sports — Winter,” was painted in 1937 and has been displayed at the middle school since its construction in 2002, according to school officials.
It shows parents and children ice skating, skiing, throwing snowballs, and riding a sleigh.
According to Barbara Bernstein of the New Deal Art Registry, the mural was created as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
“The Chicago area has many of these murals in post offices, libraries and schools,” Bernstein told the Tribune. “They are treasures from the past. They remind us of a time when things were tough, but people were optimistic. We should respect and cherish them.”
Bernstein said that even if the image doesn’t match the racial background of the community, it should be used as a learning opportunity for students.
“I think middle school children can understand that you have to look at art from the past with a little indulgence,” Bernstein said.
“The details are old-fashioned, the clothes are funny, it’s mostly all boys who are skating and there are few people of color in Oak Park at that time. That doesn’t make it worthless. Instead of removing these murals, let’s add new ones that bring the picture of life in Oak Park up to date.”