ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s artwork that’s been there for decades, and has long sparked debate over whether the art should still be featured at the University of New Mexico. Now there’s a new push to get a series of murals on the UNM campus removed.
There’s now an online petition to get the “Three Peoples” mural removed from UNM’s Zimmerman Library. The mural is a series of artwork painted by Kenneth Adams in 1939. Supporters of the petition argue the images are a symbol of racism.
“They are inherently racist,” Nova Lira-Perez said. “I mean putting a white man front and center is being – that’s a white supremacist expression I think, and it’s also very patriarchal.”
Images on the mural represent New Mexico’s Native American, Hispanic and Anglo cultures. However, longtime critics argue the images are offensive, pointing out that the Anglo is the only one painted with a face, while others are faceless.
UNM in 2018 launched an interdisciplinary class to study the issue and have informed debate about the painting. The class description aimed to tackle subjects like historical preservation and free speech.
Not every student wants to see the mural removed, but supporters of the online petition said they’re looking for ways to tackle issues of racial injustice. “I feel like people are just trying to think of tangible ways to approach the topic,” said Lira-Perez. “What we see informs what we know, or what we think we know.”
UNM has said in the past that because the murals are part of the historic character of the Zimmerman Library, any changes have to be considered carefully by the Historic Preservation Committee, and ultimately decided by the Board of Regents.
KRQE News 13 reached out to UNM on Monday to see if any decision was made about the murals’ future and their response Monday evening was:
The recent intellectual discourse regarding the murals that has taken place was conducted with depth and inclusion of many vested groups that included lectures, entire course sections and meetings with interested constituents. This engagement led to the curtain veil concept and had evolved to a more permanent technical display solution that allowed complete obstruction of view but preserved the availability to utilize them in educational settings. The transition of interim Provosts and dissolution of the company identified to do the work have unquestionably set the project back, but this issue continues to be a priority for the University. We’ve since identified another technical solution that will need be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Committee, and can be implemented upon approval.