LAUSD Halts Mural's Removal After Backlash

The Los Angeles Unified School District will halt plans to paint over a mural at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex in Koreatown after a counter-backlash ensued.

LAUSD recently announced it would be removing the painting because of a portion of the image that some say resembles the Imperial Japanese battle flag used in World War II. LAUSD’s decision to remove the artwork followed complaints from residents of Korean heritage and the Wilshire Community Coalition. They say the rays in the image’s background harken back to the atrocities committed against Koreans by the Japanese.

The mural that has elicited controversy is actually a depiction of actress Ava Gardener and is supposed to be an homage to the Cocoanut Grove, according to the artist Beau Stanton. (See the artwork here.) Stanton expressed shock at the criticism and said he felt blindsided by the district’s decision to paint over his art. The National Coalition Against Censorship has also said the move sets a dangerous precedent for speech.

Soon, another artist fought back, saying he would remove his unrelated mural of Robert F. Kennedy from the school if the district followed through on its plans to muffle a fellow artist. He was joined by members of RFK’s family who urged the district not to remove the painting.

The district has since said it will delay the action, which was set to occur over winter break at a cost of $20,000. School Board President Monica Garcia said they will resume talks over the mural’s fate at the start of next year.