June 5, 2010

If only it were this easy for FOX News to fire Glenn Beck. Still, I'll take progress wherever I can get it.

Arizona FOX affiliate KYCA fired Steve Blair today over the mural controversy painted on a wall at Miller Valley School. Actually, he wasn't fired over the controversy. He was fired for creating the controversy.

When asked about what his objections were to the mural, he replied:

"Number one, it was defacing a public building of a historic nature on one of the most heavily traveled roadways in Prescott, Arizona without any edification of what the mural was supposed to be, what it stood for, and it's a piece of public art that I don't support. Not there. Somewhere else, maybe yes, but not there.

And based upon the fact that nobody bothered to let the community know what that mural was supposed to depict made it very difficult to buy in on -- um -- what the mission statement of that mural was supposed to be. Plus it was too big, too in-your-face, wrong place, wrong time."

Defacing? Really? That particular verb, especially when taken in concert with what he says about the school mural project in general, really exposes him clearly.

It's difficult to transcribe everything he said, but at some point he listed the other three murals that, with the school mural, make up the Prescott Mural Project as being perfectly acceptable. The site is down under heavy traffic right now, but if it comes back up, you can see all the murals at http://www.prescottmurals.com/. The Miller School project was the last of four.

During the conversation about his confusion on what the Miller school mural is supposed to represent, he said:

"[It] looks like a guy black guy brown guy holding a stick and a big flowers and stuff, what was it supposed to mean? I don't know what it's supposed to mean, I really don't. If it means going green, what does that mean?

Not everything is okay, and not everything should be looked at as "I have to be politically correct...If I don't like public art like the mural, I have the right to say I don't like it...The hard part is where do people draw the line of standing up to what's right or wrong."

"I want somebody to tell me why I should like that. I like that one at the library. I like the one on the parking garage..."

The mural at the library depicts Prescott history from ancient times through modern. The one at the parking garage is entitled "Art for All". You can see some of it here.

Not content to leave it there, Blair continues his rant:

"Should we be able to paint Kumbaya on the side of the Elks theater now instead of renovating it? Put kids and jackals on the side of that building? Should we just unilaterally deface that building without talking to the guys that own it?"

"Why because I don't like it am I being painted as a racist?"

(For reference, the Elks Theater renovation project is another downtown project to restore a historical theater to its halcyon days. )

When asked if he would take back his comments regarding the mural he replied with a flat "No."

He sums it up this way:

Why are we allowing people to deface historic buildings with murals?

That's twice now with the word "deface". While he doesn't seem to have any problem with "defacing" any other building or wall in Prescott, this one alone gives him heartburn. The one with "the black guy brown guy, sticks and flowers."

Prescott started this project in 2001 as part of an overall downtown renovation effort. The murals are funded with money granted by the Prescott Alternative Transportation Center. The mural at the school was selected by the students and faculty and features student's faces in the artwork.

All reactions to art come from the heart. Steve Blair shows his heart as clearly as the children of that school do. I'll answer Blair's question about racism this way: When it's the color of the people on the historic building that you object to, when the message of the mural is as clear and consistent as those who paid to have it painted, you're kidding yourself if you think this is about "defacing public property."

I love our Los Angeles murals. They were painted for the 1984 Olympics and brighten the smoggy landscape of concrete and glass in the city. These murals are a wonderful way to brighten and renovate an aging downtown area. Prescott citizens should question whether this city councilman has their interests or his prejudices at heart.

Update: From a comment by azmtdog:

The Principal of the school and the Superintendent of Prescott Unified School District admitted "We made a mistake". The mural will not be 'lightened'. Some things work out.

Good job, parents, teachers, Principal and Superintendent. That's a big win.


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