BOONE COUNTY − The Boone County Commission heard public comment Tuesday night on whether to keep or remove two murals that are currently in the Boone County Courthouse.
The murals were painted by Sidney Larson in 1994. The murals depict different scenes that represent Boone County's history.
Rusty Antel, a lawyer from Walther, Antel & Stamper, thinks the paintings should be removed from the courthouse.
"Ultimately, to understand this, it's really difficult for a white person to do this. Because we cannot easily identify with what people of color have gone through and how they perceive things," Antel explained. "So to me, I mean, I saw that mural, many times a week walking by and really paid it no attention. But in the last couple years, we've become aware of how offensive and hurtful and intimidating and frightening it is to people of color in general."
He also said people who have to go to court don't have a choice to attend.
"A lot of people have to be there, and there are a lot of people who are just in very difficult circumstances," Antel said. "And we've heard this repeatedly from public defenders that their clients are frightened and intimidated by the images that are offensive in that mural."
One of the arguments for leaving the murals up, is that they show history.
"It's not an art museum or history museum," Antel said. "I mean, there are things to learn from the front of the mural, but not in the courthouse. People don't come to the courthouse to get educated and really don't come to view art. It's a building where justice is done."
In a letter sent to the Boone County Commission, another lawyer spoke about why he thinks the mural should remain in the courthouse.
Bill Powell, from Smith Lewis, LLP, explained that he thinks murals are "tremendously valuable in many ways, both as art and as history, and their continued display in the courthouse is likely to improve, not damage, how the legal system shapes our civilization into the future"
"I see no politics in the murals; I see no advocacy; I certainly see no celebration or endorsement of abhorrent things about our history," Powell explained. "I certainly don’t want our justice system or those who shape it and administer it to forget or fail to know the lessons of history, and I see great value to a somewhat in-your-face confrontation with those lessons whenever we are in the community’s hall of justice trying to produce justice."
Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, president of 'Race Matters Friends' thinks the murals should be replaced with artwork from diverse influences.
According to the Columbia Missourian, state statute designates the county commissioners as custodians of all county property. Therefore, murals' fate lies solely in the hands of the three Boone County Commissioners: Dan Atwill, Justin Aldred and Janet Thompson.
A decision has not been made on whether or not to remove the murals, but could come in the next few weeks.