Saturday, March 13, 2021
The Writing Is On The Wall For Vermont Law School's Underground Railroad Murals After Federal Judge’s Ruling
Following up on my previous posts (links below): Valley News, Writing Is on the Wall for VLS Murals After Judge’s Ruling:
A federal judge has ruled that Vermont Law School can put up a wall to obscure a pair of murals, so long as the murals are unharmed.
The ruling, issued Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford, deals a blow to artist Sam Kerson, who painted the murals, which depict scenes of slavery and the Underground Railroad, in 1993 and 1994. Crawford rejected Kerson’s request for a preliminary injunction preventing the law school from destroying or modifying the works.
Kerson had argued that the federal Visual Artists Rights Act, or VARA, protects the murals from even being covered. Law school officials, who last summer announced plans to paint over the murals, have covered them with dropcloths, but they intend to cover it with acoustic tiles placed 2 inches in front of the murals, each of which measures 8-by-24 feet. ...
“It is not Vermont Law School’s plan to make it available for viewing again,” Justin Barnard, a lawyer for VLS said Friday. An artist’s rights under VARA do not extend past the artist’s lifetime. ...
A recent painting of Kerson’s in a series titled “The Muralist Imagines the Destruction of His Work,” appears to represent Jameson Davis, one of the students who took issue with the murals and circulated a petition about them with another student, April Urbanowski. The image, which depicts a videoconference between a man and a woman on one end, and a Black man on the screen, bears the legend, “Mr. Kerson me and my friend April do not like your Underground Railroad.”
Barnard said he was “disappointed” that Kerson appeared to have singled out students of color who have raised questions about his work.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- Vermont Law School To Paint Over Mural Celebrating State's Role In The Underground Railroad And Abolitionist Movement Because Depiction Of Blacks 'Made Some People Uncomfortable' (July 11, 2020)
- Vermont Law School Gives Artist 90 Days To Remove 'Offensive' Mural (July 27, 2020)
- Artist Defends Mural Honoring Underground Railroad And Abolitionist Movement That Vermont Law School Plans To Paint Over Because Some Black Students Say It Is Racist (July 31, 2020)
- Artist Sues To Prevent Vermont Law School From Painting Over Underground Railroad Murals That Black Students Call Racist (Dec. 4, 2020)
- Vermont Law School Moves To Dismiss Lawsuit By Artist To Protect Underground Railroad Murals That Black Students Call Racist (Feb. 7, 2021)