URI to remove mural from campus due to lack of diversity

KINGSTON, R.I. (WLNE) — A mural painted at the University of Rhode Island’s Kingston campus is set to be taken down after staff say they received complaints about its lack of diversity.

The mural spreads two walls inside the university’s Memorial Union building. It was painted in 1953 by Arthur Sherman, a WWII veteran, who graduated from URI in 1950.

“One of the murals shows students arriving at Kingston station and a football game– that’s the fall semester,” explained Sherman’s daughter, Pamela. “The other wall is the spring semester– there is a basketball game, beach scene, and it finishes off with commencement.”

Sherman’s painting depicts the student-body of his generation.

In 1953, the University of Rhode Island had less than 2,000 students enrolled. Most of them where white men, who had just returned home from the war.

Now, the university has more than 17,000 students enrolled. 57% are women and 21% are students of color.
According to university officials, some students are complaining about the mural, saying it doesn’t represent them any longer.
“I’ve personally heard from some students who didn’t feel comfortable,” said Kathy Collins, Vice President of Student Affairs.  “It doesn’t represent who they are.”
Last week, the university covered Sherman’s murals with school banners. They will remain covered until renovation work on Memorial Union begins in the near future.
URI also reached out to the Sherman family to let them know about their plans to renovate.
“We really don’t want to lose his artwork,” said Pam Sherman. “It’s been on the walls of the Union since it was built.”
Unfortunately for the family, the mural is painted directly on the building’s walls, and there is no real way to preserve Sherman’s work if the walls are taken down.
The university says possible renovations could include replacing the walls with a digital wall, that would display artwork such as Sherman’s and others to depict the university’s full history.
They are also considering covering over them entirely.
“We realize things change,” Pam Sherman told ABC6. “For our family, we would just like to see as much of the murals retained as possible.”
©WLNE-TV/ABC6 2020
Categories: News, Rhode Island