Tomorrow, Wednesday May 10, is the last day to give comment on the City of Santa Monica’s “Reframe: City Hall Mural” public process. “History of Santa Monica and the Bay District,” is a mural that appears inside the City Hall foyer that was painted in the 1930’s. Some call the piece a “product of its time. Others call it “racist.” Almost nobody wants to see it stay unaltered at the entranceway to the city’s seat of political power.
People can voice their opinion on the mural via an online survey as the city looks for options to either replace, relocate and/or change the image. You can take the survey in English or Spanish in English or Spanish.
For those unfamiliar with the mural, it depicts Native Americans kneeling at the feet of a caucasian priest and a soldier on a horse, and another group of Native Americans drinking out of the same water that a horse is placing its hoof.
A recent piece on Spectrum News 1 quotes Native American tribal member and U.S. Army veteran Albert John Acuña Jr who didn’t mince any words when he said of the mural, “That mural is very offensive. It’s very hurtful,” Acuña told the tv reporter.
At the most recent City Council meeting, Councilmember Oscar De la Torre recounted the anger he feels at seeing the mural and having his son see the mural, during the debate on gender neutral bathrooms and civil rights.
However, the city is taking a cautious approach to making changes to the mural. The official website for the project avoids making any judgements about the mural. It describes the project as, “…a community engagement process that provides opportunities for the community to learn together about the mural and related topics of civic representation in public art. The project will collect and consider community feedback and contextual information about the depictions and absences conveyed by the artworks and after this process, develop an artistic response that engages with the full complexity of Santa Monica’s histories and communities. “
When one enters the survey, they are shown the two images included in the header of this story. Respondents are asked for a reaction to the image and what kinds of changes could be made. In the next section, respondents are shown a map with many of the city’s landmarks and asked where they would move the mural. Finally, they are asked for personal information and their relationship to the city so the city staff understands the perspective that is being shared.