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UK Set To Unveil Controversial Shrouded Mural

Josh James
A sliver of the shrouded Ann Rice O'Hanlon mural peeks through the covering in UK's Memorial Hall.

A 1934 University of Kentucky mural that was covered following a campus controversy over its depiction of African-Americans working in the fields is set to be re-unveiled Thursday.

The Ann Rice O’Hanlon painting prominently featured in the lobby of Memorial Hall went off display in 2015, while President Eli Capilouto convened a committee to reassess the artwork. Thursday, that shroud is expected to come down as the school moves into the next stage of its plan to situate the painting against a larger historical background.

UK spokesman Jay Blanton says new permanent story panels have already been installed and the school will be commissioning more artwork in the coming months to place around the mural.

"One of the criticisms that the president heard from students and from others was that there wasn't a context for the mural. It didn't tell a complete story. It only told a partial story or it sanitized some of the history of the state, particularly with respect to race relations, and so what we hope to do is to have art that better frames that, that tells a complete story," he says.

While no hard deadline exists to finish work on the full project, Blanton says professors teaching classes in the hall will be given new materials to pass onto students regarding the artwork before classes this fall.

The mural and surrounding changes will be the subject of a panel discussion at Memorial Hall at 1:30 Friday. It's part of the annual Black Women's Conference. 

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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