Following up on my previous posts:
Law360, Artist Sues Law School To Save Underground Railroad Murals:
A law school in Vermont won't be able to take down two allegedly offensive murals depicting the slaves in Underground Railroad without a legal fight, according to a lawsuit a painter lodged in federal court this week.
Samuel Kerson filed a Visual Artists Rights Act suit Wednesday against the nonprofit that runs the Vermont Law School because the school's Board of Trustees decided in July to paint over two murals following complaints from students that the work and the school's choice to endorse it propagated negative stereotypes about Black bodies. It gave Kerson 90 days to take the murals down from a community center at the school's campus.
Kerson refused, saying the murals would be destroyed if taken down because they are painted on sheet rock that is affixed to the building. Steven Hyman, a partner at McLaughlin & Stern LLP who is part of the team representing Kerson, told Law360 on Thursday that the murals remain up at the school, where its campus is currently closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The board is supportive of and sympathetic to the many students, faculty and staff, and other members of the VLS community who find the mural offensive because of how it caricatures enslaved Africans specifically and casually stereotypes Black bodies in general," Glenn J. Berger, chair of the school's Board of Trustees, told Law360 in a statement on Thursday.
But Kerson says that the school is violating his rights under the Visual Artists Rights Act, a little-used federal statute from 1990 that protects art works of "recognized stature" from destruction or mutilation. In recent years, it has been leveled against border wall contractors who tore down a conceptual artist's "Cheese Wall" sculpture and a country rap performer who allegedly shot up two of an artist's paintings with guns.