panels covering anti-slavery murals ,artist, Artist Sam Kerson, anti-slavery murals, Vermont school, legal battle, preservation
A controversy over intricate murals paying tribute to African Americans and abolitionists linked to the Underground Railroad has unfolded at Vermont Law and Graduate School. Artist Sam Kerson’s created murals, which are titled “Vermont, The Underground Railroad” and “Vermont and the Fugitive Slave,” created in 1993, have been dragged up against the possibility of being removed because of concerns over the racial insensitivity.
Despite Kerson’s appeals to the court, two years later, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the earlier court’s decision and sparked an argument that explores the relationship between artistic integrity as well as freedom of expression and sensibility to culture.
Sam Kerson’s exquisite creations grace his walls in the structure of the Vermont Law and Graduate School. Created in 1993, the murals honor the work to the work of African Americans and abolitionists associated with the Underground Railroad. In 2020 the school announced its intention to apply paint to the murals or cover the tiles with acoustic ones, due to concerns about racial discrimination and discord among the viewers.
A Clash of Artistic Integrity and Sensitivity
Kerson is adamantly opposed to the removal or alteration of his art and argues that the murals are covered by the Federal Visual Artists Rights Act. The act protects artworks of artists from alteration that harm their reputation or reputation. Kerson’s lawyer, Steven Hyman, asserted that covering the murals and preventing the public’s view, is an alteration that violates the rights of the artist. On the other hand, the school’s lawyer Justin Barnard contended that framing the murals in the use of a wooden frame that is not intrusive is not a valid modification.
Kerson’s legal battle prompted Kerson to sue Vermont Law and Graduate School in U.S. District Court. Sadly for him, the court decided in favor of the school and dismissed his request to preserve the murals. The matter then moved before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which echoed the lower court’s decision on Friday. The court’s decision was based on an incredibly delicate line between maintaining the integrity of the art and dealing with issues of the sensitivity of racial groups.
This court’s ruling brought to light the complex issues of the expression of art, representation of culture as well and institutional discretion. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged the significance of the case as it weighed the right of an artist to preserve his or her integrity in their work against an entity’s authority over the art that falls within its realm.
The controversy surrounding the murals highlights the wider issues that surround public art and the representation of culture. While art can be used as a medium to express history and stories, it may be a way to perpetuate negative stereotypes and cause anxiety. In a constantly changing and sensitive society it is difficult to strike a balance conserving artistic freedom and respecting the cultural perspective is an arduous task.
Sam Kerson’s murals in Vermont Law and Graduate School are a microcosm of the larger debates in society about the representation of culture, art, and the sensitivity. The conflict between the artist’s intentions as well as the authority of institutions and the cultural awareness illustrates the complex landscape that art traverses. While the debate continues it highlights the importance of creating conversations that foster understanding of, appreciation, and respect for the various perspectives that art seeks to represent.