Danny Glover Speaks Out In Opposition To Destruction Or Covering Of New Deal Murals At George Washington High School

For Immediate Release:    August 12, 2019

Contact:  
Jon Golinger – for Coalition to Protect Public Art (415) 531-8585
Noah Griffin – for Mr. Glover (415) 756-3933

News Release

DANNY GLOVER SPEAKS OUT IN OPPOSITION TO DESTRUCTION OR COVERING OF NEW DEAL MURALS AT GEORGE WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL

Today, internationally acclaimed actor, activist and social justice warrior Danny Glover signed on to join the Advisory Committee of the Coalition to Protect Public Art to support the cause of preserving the 13 Victor Arnautoff New Deal Murals at George Washington High School and oppose destroying the murals or blocking them from view.

In a statement today, Mr. Glover said: “As a Washington High graduate, I’ve spent my entire life fighting for freedom and the right of artistic expression.  Whether it was being in the forefront to bring about the first Black Studies Department in the country at San Francisco State or being involved in films like The Color Purple and most recently the Last Black Man in San Francisco, my record is clear and unambiguous.

I am for freedom of expression and against artistic censorship.  I view Arnautoff’s murals, as they were for me, a reminder of the horrors of human bondage and the mistreatment of native peoples, even by the father of our country. 

To destroy them or block them from view would be akin to book burning.  We would be missing the opportunity for enhanced historic introspection this moment has provided us.”

Mr. Glover joins more than two dozen artists and art community leaders, civil rights leaders, educators, George Washington High School Alumni, and San Franciscans from across the political spectrum on the Advisory Committee for the Coalition to Protect Public Art.  

The CPPA Advisory Committee now includes the following individuals:

COALITION TO PROTECT PUBLIC ART ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Art Agnos, former Mayor of San Francisco

JoAnne Bernstein, Professor Emerita of Art History, Mills College

Robert Tamaka Bailey, Choctaw Nation Elder

Enrique Chagoya, Painter, Printmaker, Professor, Stanford University Dept. of Art

Gwen Chan, Former Interim Superintendent, SF Unified School District

Dewey Crumpler, Professor, SF Art Institute and Muralist, GW High School

Danny Glover, Actor and Alumnus of George Washington High School

Noah Griffin, Commissioner, USA 250 Commission

Emil de Guzman, former leader, International Hotel Tenants Association

Henry Der, former Executive Director, Chinese for Affirmative Action

Dianne Fukami, Bay Area filmmaker

Matt Gonzalez, former President, SF Board of Supervisors

Alvin Ja, former leader, Asian American Political Alliance

Robert Johnson, Curator Emeritus, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Quentin Kopp, former Judge and State Senator

Anne Kronenberg, former Director, SF Department of Emergency Services

Rocco Landesman, former Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts

Will Maynez, Curator, Diego Rivera Mural Project at City College of San Francisco

Annette Melville, Executive Director Emeritus, National Film Preservation Foundation

Dale Minami, Civil Rights Attorney & Co-founder, Asian Law Caucus

Therese Poletti, Preservation Director, Art Deco Society of California

Jeffrey Pollack, Former President, Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant Association

Barth Chief Eagle Robinson, Rosebud Sioux Tribe

John Rothmann, President, George Washington High School Alumni Association

Natalie Sabelnik, President, Congress of Russian Americans

Harvey Smith, President, National New Deal Preservation Association

John Trasvina, former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity

Lope Yap, Jr., Vice-President, George Washington High School Alumni Association

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Paid for by the Coalition To Protect Public ArtFinancial disclosures available at sfethics.org

Statement of Coalition to Protect Public Art on proposed new SF Board of Education Resolution Regarding SF Washington High School Murals

For Immediate Release:  August 9, 2019
Contact:  Jon Golinger, (415) 531-8585

Statement of Jon Golinger, Executive Director of the Coalition to Protect Public Art, on the proposed new SF Board of Education Resolution Regarding the 
SF Washington High School Murals 

Friday, August 9, 2019 If this proposal is adopted at Tuesday’s Board meeting as proposed, we will applaud the decision by the School Board not to proceed with the destruction of these unique and historic murals.  It will be a positive step forward for the School Board to recognize that irreversibly destroying this important work of public art is the wrong course of action.  While we are open to a wide range of reasonable options to address the concerns that have been raised, we will continue to oppose putting up an impenetrable barrier that blocks anyone from ever seeing these important works of art.  It’s critical that any solution include a way for the murals to be made available for students, teachers, and others to view them for educational purposes.  We also are ready to work with the School Board to support the creation of new murals from different perspectives and to develop an educational curriculum and materials that will put these historic murals in context and use them for educational purposes.  We look forward to participating in cooperatively creating that result.
See the proposed resolution at:  https://go.boarddocs.com/ca/sfusd/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=BDLBWW2678D6

PRESS RELEASE: S.F. School Board President Stevon Cook Proposes Solution to Dispute Over Controversial Mural

PRESS RELEASE  
For Immediate ReleaseCONTACT: Laura Dudnick  
Office: (415) 241-6565  
Cell: (415) 730-0314  
Email: [email protected]
S.F. School Board President Stevon Cook Proposes  
Solution to Dispute Over Controversial Mural
“Life of Washington” Mural Could be Preserved by Covering Over It to Make Way for New, Positive ArtworkSan Francisco (August 9, 2019) – The San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education President Stevon Cook said he will introduce a solution at the school board meeting on August 13 that will preserve the controversial “Life of Washington” mural by covering it without destroying it. “I am pleased to propose this solution to the controversy over the objectionable content depicted in the mural,” said School Board President Stevon Cook.  “I am introducing a vote at our next regular Board of Education meeting to cover-over the mural with panels or another similar treatment, which will preserve the artwork and not destroy it.  This should satisfy those who were concerned about the possible destruction of art.” He said it is important to note that there are strong passions on both sides of the debate. “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,” Cook said. “Without harming this artwork we want to see something in its place that shows the heroism of people of color in America, how we have fought against, and continue to battle discrimination, racism, hatred, and poverty,” he said. “I can’t tell you what image ought to be on the walls of Washington High School, but it should be one that inspires young people, not one that dehumanizes them.” 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 using the fresco technique by the late Victor Arnautoff. 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. In recent months, numerous community members, art historians and local preservationist have voiced their concern over the District’s intention to paint over the murals. Now, the Board will consider a resolution at its next meeting on August 13 at 6:00 p.m. that authorizes staff to develop a project, assessing a range of alternatives, for the purposes of 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.  

Join our Campaign to Save the George Washington High School Murals from Destruction

Featured

Washington High – Life of Washington

Join our campaign to save the historic WPA murals at the George Washington High School in San Francisco. The members of the SF School Board have voted on June 27 to destroy the murals. The Guardian, the New York Times, and The San Francisco Chronicle have reported that the destruction of the 1,600-sq-ft New Deal-era murals would cost at least $600,000. Hiding the artwork would cost up to $825,000. Please consider joining our letter-writing campaign and writing to the members SF School Board to express your concern about this loss of public art and erasure of the past—albeit a painful depiction of our nation’s history.

What you can do:

Help preserve New Deal art history by donating to the SAVE THE MURALS FUND, the George Washington High School Alumni Association’s campaign to save the murals from destruction.

SAVE THE MURALS FUND: https://mkt.com/sfgwhsalumni

Write to the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission. You can find the Commissioners’ contact information here: https://sfplanning.org/historic-preservation-commission.

Write to the SF School Board. You can find the Board members’ names and email addresses here: http://www.sfusd.edu/en/about-sfusd/board-of-education/overview-and-members.html

Some parents and students at the school believe that two of Arnautoff’s 13 murals “glorify” racism. One controversial panel depicts slaves and the other shows Washington pointing westward over a murdered Indian. Art historians and the school’s alumni association interpret these as the artist’s condemnation of both slavery and the myth of so-called Manifest Destiny.

The destruction of these murals would be a significant loss for the public. Commissioned by the Federal Art Project, the George Washington High School murals belong to all Americans. Art historians have argued that the artist’s intent was, in fact, critical of national mythology, rather than condoning racism. Thus, the murals illuminate America’s history and hold valuable lessons. We believe that informative signage installed on site would offer an opportunity to make visible, rather than accept the historical injustices of Colonial America. History  should not be erased.  The National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington DC has displays devoted to a discussion of slavery. The Holocaust Museum is dedicated to educating about genocide so that people will “never forget,” what happened.  The Choctaw Cultural Center educates visitors about the “Trail of Tears.” The George Washington High School can deliver the same message.

We will continue to post updates on this issue on this dedicated page.

SF School Board Votes to Remove Arnautoff Murals

Despite public opposition, the San Francisco school board voted on Tuesday unanimously to remove the George Washington Arnautoff murals. The art has been the object of controversy for its depiction of slaves and a dead Native American. Find more details about the Board vote in a recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

New Book: Women and the Spirit of the New Deal

Featured

Women and the Spirit of the New Deal highlights the extensive role of women in the programs and operations of the New Deal under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  It was prepared for a two-day conference, “Women and the Spirit of the New Deal,” held in Berkeley, California on October 5-6, 2018.  The conference was jointly sponsored by The Living New Deal, The National New Deal Preservation Association and The Frances Perkins Center.  The brief biographies of approximately 100 women include some individuals who were known to the public and remembered by historians, while others operated behind the scenes and have been virtually forgotten.  Some were prominent during the period 1933-1945 while not formally linked to government programs.  Most played significant roles in the numerous agencies, projects and programs of the federal government during a dozen years when the relationship between the government and American citizens was profoundly reshaped. The women include politicians, administrators, lawyers, social workers, authors, journalists, painters, sculptors, musicians and scientists.   The book begins a process of identifying hundreds if not thousands of women whose roles during this eventful period were of consequence in contributing to the transformations that took place through the initiatives of the Roosevelt Administration.   Our hope is that readers of this book will contribute the names and descriptions of additional women (including modifications and/or elaborations of the biographies contained herein) to the websites of the three sponsoring organizations where they will be available to students, scholars and interested citizens:

The Living New Deal www.livingnewdeal.org

The National New Deal Preservation Association www.newdeallegacy.org

The Frances Perkins Center  www.FrancesPerkinsCenter.org

The book can be purchased here.

Living New Deal Launches New York City Project

Two hundred New Yorkers gathered at the Center for Architecture to learn about a new initiative to familiarize a new generation to the New Deal’s vast imprint on the nation’s largest city.

The May 7 reception was co-sponsored by the Museum of the City of New York, the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter, Planners Network, Historic Districts Council, National Jobs for All Network, City Lore, FDR Library, Gotham Center for New York City History, and Roosevelt House at Hunter College. It featured Kevin Baker as keynote speaker, and a panel, including New Deal scholars Nick Taylor, Gray Brechin, and Marta Gutman, and Deputy Mayor of New York City, Phillip Thompson.

The presentations can be viewed on our website, as well as a WPA film, “A Better New York City,” produced in 1937. See it here.

To learn more about the New Deal-New York program, please contact, Margaret Crane [email protected]