SF School Board Votes to Cover Controversial Mural

The school board for San Francisco public schools voted to cover up this mural at Washington High School.
Photo credit KTVU

The San Francisco school board has voted to cover a controversial mural at Washington High School in the city's Richmond District that depicts slavery and violence against Native Americans. 

Because the mural by artist Victor Arnautoff is more than 80 years old, there isn’t a way to take them down and move them, so the board voted to cover them up.  

The unanimous vote was to see how quickly they could be painted over. But staff warned it couldn’t happen quickly — it may take years— because of potential lawsuits and the need for an environmental impact report.  

So, the board voted to do the next best thing in their minds, which was to cover the mural, possibly with paneling.  

“People keep saying this is art and I can say, yes, this might be art and it can also be racist,” Commissioner Alison Collins said, garnering to applause. “It can be both.” 

Because this has been such a heated issue, the board gave 30 minutes of public comment to each side: those who wanted to preserve the 1936 mural. and those who wanted to see it painted over.

Critics said the mural has no place in a school because “all it is doing is hurting the population.”

“The American Indian students in this country already have one of the highest dropout rates of any ethnic minority group. We don’t need to see this anymore,” one woman said. 

But supporters who wanted to preserve the New Deal-era painting said it's not racist. 

“They’re an artist’s interpretation of a society which is racist, and it’s important for us to study that and to look at these murals,” one man said.