Arizona School Asks Artists to Lighten Face of Hispanic Student on Mural

Sean Alfano, New York Daily News, June 4, 2010

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Artists who painted a mural at an elementary school in Prescott depicting four students, with the most prominent being a Hispanic boy, were asked to lighten the faces amid taunts and tensions.

R.E. Wall, the artist who heads the Prescott Downtown Mural Project, told a local newspaper passersby regularly shouted racially charged comments at his group while they were creating the mural at the Miller Valley Elementary School.

“You’re desecrating our school,” “Get the ni—- off the wall,” “Get the sp– off the wall,” were common, Wall said. “The pressure stayed up consistently,” Wall said. “We had two months of cars shouting at us.”

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“I am not a racist individual,” Blair [Councilman Steve Blair] said on a radio show last month, “but I will tell you depicting a black guy in the middle of that mural, based upon who’s President of the United States today and based upon the history of this community, when I grew up we had four black families–who I have been very good friends with for years–to depict the biggest picture on that building as a black person, I would have to ask the question, ‘Why?'”

The “black guy” in the mural is based on a student of Mexican descent, a school official said.

According to the most recent census data, Prescott is more than 90% white, with 8.2% claiming Hispanic origin. Blacks, Asians and Native Americans compose less than 3% combined, the data show.

Blair said Wednesday diversity is a word “I can’t stand.”

“The focus doesn’t need to be on what’s different; the focus doesn’t need to be on the minority all the time,” he said.

Wall said his artists began touching up the mural earlier this week.

“They want us to lighten up the forehead and the cheeks [of the boy in the center], and make him look like he is coming into the light,” he said. The school told Wall they want the children to appear more “radiant and happy.”

The school’s principal, Jeff Lane, told the newspaper he asked the artists to “remove some shadowing that made the faces darker than they are.”

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