The conversation surrounding a piece of art at the University of New Mexico’s main library may be coming to an end soon.
The Three People’s Murals, located in Zimmerman Library, have been a point of contention for decades. However, UNM Associate Vice Provost Alex Lubin has presented a plan for the murals to the Office of the President.
The murals are composed of four different paintings that hang in the West Wing of Zimmerman Library and have been criticized by many for their “racial undertones.” The murals were painted by Kenneth Adams and completed in 1939.
The mural depicts three groups of people: the Anglo, the Hispanic and the Native American. One of the paintings has drawn significant ire because it shows the Anglo, Hispanic and Native American holding hands with one another. However, only the face of the Anglo can be seen and he is slightly higher than the other two individuals in the painting.
“The painting clearly has a hierarchy with Hispanics were portrayed stereotypically as manual labour, Native Indigenous people as artisans and Anglos presented as scientists,” Lubin said.
President Garnett Stokes and Interim Provost Richard Wood stated in a letter sent out that a solution will be presented to the Board of Regents Historic Preservation Committee.
“President Stokes and I are recommending an immediate way forward regarding the controversial Kenneth Adams Murals in the west end of Zimmerman Library,” the letter stated. “The murals are part of the historic character of Zimmerman Library and any change to the murals will have to be considered carefully by the Regents Historic Preservation Committee and ultimately decided by the Board of Regents.”
In a previous interview with the Daily Lobo, Lubin said that he and Kymberly Pinder taught the class on the “Three People’s Murals” to educate students about the history of the controversial mural and to come up with possible solutions for covering it up or safely removing them.
The proposed solution of covering the murals was one of the student group recommendations that came from the final project of the class, said Lubin in a recent interview with the Daily Lobo.
“We will ask the Regent’s Historic Preservation Committee for approval to install theater curtains over the murals. The committee will provide a recommendation to the Regents (ensuring that the historic character of the library won’t be altered as a result of this proposed change),” Lubin said.
Lubin said his role in this process is presenting the plan to the committee.
Audra Bellmore is the chair of the UNM Board of Regents Historical Preservation Committee and will be overseeing the decision making process surrounding the “Three People’s Murals.”
“It is the policy of the University that all buildings, landscapes and places or objects of historic significance be preserved and protected. Removal of, or major alteration to, any buildings designated by the University Historic Preservation Committee to be of historic significance must be approved by the Board of Regents,” Bellmore said.
Bellmore said she hopes this will be a collaborative process and that the committee appreciates the opportunity of assisting in the process and the creation of a solution. Bellmore also said Zimmerman Library is on the National Register of Historic places and as such, handling the controversial murals is a complicated situation.
“We want to work together with the UNM Regents and state and federal authorities to mediate a meaningful outcome for this complex situation,” Bellmore said.
Megan Holmen is the assistant news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or on Twitter @megan_holmen.