Boston City Council President Kim Janey had some interesting comments on public art this week, after a mural called “Roxbury Love” was destroyed during the process of building a new housing complex.
“There was a missed opportunity in terms of residents being able to come and say goodbye to the mural,” Janey said. Although Cruz Companies, which is building the complex, had told the city that the mural would need to be demolished and is considering incorporating elements of the mural into the building, citizens did not know ahead of time that it would be demolished on that particular day. Even the mural’s creator, Deme5, said in an Instagram post that he was saddened at the loss and would have appreciated a heads up about the demolition.
Janey called on her fellow council members to discuss “strategies for ensuring intentionality when it comes to preserving murals and public art.” She expressed admiration for the murals that she grew up around in Roxbury and the South End during the 1970s and 1980s. “It was an important part of what it meant to live in the community that I lived in,” she said. Another city councilor, Liz Breadon, described public art as “a wonderful, vibrant expression of the community that lives in that place.”
I wholeheartedly agree with these comments. Art is an essential part of the identity of a place. But when reading them, I can’t help but think of the beautiful statues across the country that have been destroyed by mobs or taken down by local governments. These statues were just as crucial to the identity of their communities as the Roxbury mural was, and their removal just as damaging. Rampaging, politically correct protesters have also deprived people of the opportunity to say goodbye to beloved works of art, as have cowardly public officials who have ordered statues removed under cover of night. Boston’s Italian-American community did not get the chance to say farewell to the statue of Christopher Columbus that was brutally beheaded by a despicable excuse for a human being. Richmond residents who are proud of their Southern heritage weren’t able to bid adieu to the magnificent statues of Confederate generals that Mayor Levar Stoney abruptly ordered removed. So while I completely share the sentiments of these city councilors with respect to the importance of preserving public art, the same consideration needs to be extended to all works of art, not only those that happen to be favored by the political establishment.