Originally Published: June 7, 2010 3:10 p.m.
Note: I'm going to take off my geek hat here and just wear my mom hat for this one. I'm sure next time I'll return to the regularly scheduled geekiness.
Recently, Councilman Blair made a bunch of negative comments about the alternative transportation mural on the wall of Miller Valley Elementary School. This controversy has escalated, riling up the community, costing Blair his job at the radio station, and coming to the nation's attention as well.
Around the same time, the Mural Mice artists were asked to brighten the faces of the children in the mural. There may or may not be a connection here, as I have heard evidence on both sides, but the timing has turned it into a real issue for our community.
My family and I made a point to go to the protest on Saturday, June 5th, to protest the school's decision to "brighten" the faces of the children. There were plenty of signs and arms waving. Countless cars drove by and waved, honked, or gave the thumbs up sign in support.
Several car drivers and passengers were less supportive, however, gunning their engines as they drove past, clouding the protesters in exhaust. Police officers that drove by seemed to be making an effort to keep a neutral position, not altering their driving pattern at all.
It felt really good to be surrounded by members of our community, all trying to make a point about the same thing. It's a small town, and the chances of running into someone you know at such an event are very high.
The feeling of community I got was so wonderful. This is all part of what makes our town special. And the murals around town, and the specific children in this mural, are a part of what makes it so special.
The Miller Valley school mural is a beautiful one that the school worked to make happen. The students approved the photos for the mural, and the children in the mural are actual students at Miller Valley. The boy who is depicted the largest is of Mexican descent, and I have a feeling that he is forever going to symbolize diversity in our town.
I wanted to take my kids to this protest to show them that we feel that all kids matter, all skin colors are beautiful, and all colors represent our town. I also wanted them to see that plenty of people in our town feel the same way I do. I was sorry to see fewer children there than I had expected. Many parents brought their kids, but many more had left them at home. The age of the crowd ran from retired folk down to babies, with the vast majority seeming to be between 25 and 65.
R. E. Wall, one of the Mural Mice artists, spoke at one point, actually thanking Blair for bringing this issue to the attention of the nation, since accepting people of all races is such an important issue. He said, "These are not colored children. They are children. Period." I couldn't agree more. A person's value has nothing to do with the color of their skin. He also said, "Let the city council know that they are not going to sterilize our town... We are not cowboys."
The Mural Mice didn't try to start a controversy with this mural. They are artists bringing public art to Prescott, painting projects where they are wanted. With this mural, the Mice tried to bring attention to the fact that Prescott has very few bike lanes or good alternative transportation systems in place. That's what the mural is really about.
Then the principal of Miller Valley, Jeff Lane, said, "Miller Valley made a mistake when we asked them to lighten the mural. [...] We're going back to the original theme." Kevin Kapp, superintendent of the school district, spoke last and said, "Shame on us if we can't say, 'We made a mistake and we're sorry.'" He said that each time he drives by the school, he'll know who the largest child is in the mural. "This is Mario," he said. He also said that they "gave the artistry back to the artists." As it should be.
The Mural Mice have done a fantastic job on this mural, along with the other murals they have painted in town. It has brought public art to our attention. The Mural Mice are such wonderful people and do great work. They go where they are wanted, so let's care enough for their work to make them stay! Their mural at the library shows the amazing history of books. By the creek, that mural shows the history of the area and the fact that art is for everyone. These murals are a local treasure, and this recent national attention has brought the Mice's work to the entire country.
I try not to get political on this blog, but I couldn't not write about this. What kind of message are we sending to our kids if we say anything other than all children are important? And who can possibly be against a painting of actual local children riding bikes and using other alternative transportation?