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.
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.