“Painted in Stone: The Kentucky Mural,” an independent documentary about the controversy surrounding “The Kentucky Mural” at the University of Kentucky, will make its world debut Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m. in O’Donnell Hall in the Whitlock Building.
“This is about a controversial mural at the University of Kentucky. It’s housed in the central building at the University called Memorial Hall,” said John Fitch III, a professor of broadcasting and electronic media.
“I created this documentary that looks at the history of African American students at the University of Kentucky, all the way up until 2019,” said Fitch. “What I wanted to do was to make sure that the full story gets out there so that people have the opportunity to talk about it, to argue about it, to think about the role of public art in public places and to think in terms of censorship and race relations in the United States.”
The mural has been covered two times by the university administration because of backlash from protesting students.
“The painting was created in 1934 by Ann Rice O’Hanlon. She was commissioned by the Federal Government through the Works Progress Administration Arts Project to create a mural for the University. Her assignment was to create a mural that dealt with Kentucky history.”
Fitch explained the history of the mural through his documentary and the controversy it caused between students.
“It’s been covered up twice in the last four or five years after students have complained. The first documented controversy over the mural was in 2006 where a group of students were upset with many other things on campus dealing with minority students, and one of the complaints was the mural.Most recently, in April, students protested the mural and ended up occupying the main administration building for almost 24 hours,” Fitch said.
“At the very center of the mural are depictions of slaves in the fields planting tobacco,” said Fitch.“There are other depictions of African American figures doing things like playing music for white people, working in the fields, they're always in a subservient position from the white people. Some students that don’t like the mural call it the ‘Slave Mural,’ that’s what it’s known as.”