The University of Kentucky has recently unveiled an existing mural that is decades old. This controversial piece became the center of attention when some viewers thought the visual content could be seen as offensive, as it depicts certain moments in our country’s history. In response, the university decided to cover the mural for a temporary period of time until now. Mixed emotions began to arise throughout campus. I decided to see it for myself.
As I was walking toward the iconic Memorial Hall, I began to think just how small in scale it now seems compared to all of the new construction on campus. I thought about how time has passed since it was first constructed and much history this building has witnessed. As I entered, the anticipation continued to build. To my surprise, the mural was larger than I was expecting, flowing along one whole wall. As I walked closer to the piece, I was amazed by the detail-work and hand craftsmanship. I viewed the piece as a whole and as separate smaller vignettes, each telling their own story. With no definitive timeline, the vignettes range from stories about settling in the frontier to a snap shot of people’s activities and towards the top, stories of developed dwellings and important buildings in town.
Controversially some of the vignettes depict some not so noteworthy times during our country’s past. Slavery was a very ungracious and very unfortunate practice that took place in our history, but it is our history, and we must not turn a blind eye. As I was viewing the mural I felt a sense of mixed emotion. I knew I was supposed to feel “offended” or uncomfortable because that was what society deemed appropriate. However, I did not. This mural was painted as one’s interpretation of the great city of Lexington. The artist had no intention of creating controversy, they were just painting scenes of ordinary life as they perceived. As we move forward, it is easier to look and a decipher right from wrong. As we are able to collectively agree event such as slavery was wrong, we have a duty today and in the future to not hide, but to shed light on our history. We should use history for positive change and create new learning experiences. In the future, I will continue to be knowledgable of how others will view myself and my work but also be brave to portray my interpretations.