The Problem with Canceling the Arnautoff Murals

“As I see it,” wrote Arnautoff in 1935, “the artist is a critic of society.” That critical stance underpinned The Life of George Washington and much the artist’s public work. The #paintitdown advocates, however, did not see the portrayals of Washington as indictments of the myth. They refuted assertions about the murals’ pedagogical significance, insisting that the feelings of some members of a long-oppressed minority group trumped claims by academic experts, whose views they regarded as racist. The progressive school board accepted this argument virtually without question, saying that it was acting in solidarity with people whose voices were too often not heard. 

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