During the Great Depression, Ann Rice O’Hanlon painted a 38 feet wide, 11 feet tall mural on Kentucky history in the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Hall. The mural depicted African American slaves hunched in a field, Black musicians playing for white dancers, and a Native American threatening a White settler with a tomahawk. Three years ago, the university draped sheets over the mural. Now a new art installation in the hall is meant to counteract what many regard as offensive images from Kentucky’s past.
Artist Karyn Oliver, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally born in Trinidad, created an art piece on the interior dome of the room with the O’Hanlon mural. Oliver covered the entire dome in gold leaf and depictions of notable people of color. Around the design is a quote from abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, that reads “There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.” The ceiling near the dome shows the silhouettes and portraits of a Cherokee chief and three African Americans important to the state’s history.
Eli Capilouto, president of the University of Kentucky states that the university is “now a campus becoming more diverse, still working to reconcile our differences and understand our humanity.”