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Prescott officials want faces lightened in school mural
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Prescott officials want faces lightened in school mural

Artists say Prescott officials want them to lighten the faces on children depicted in a school mural in Prescott.

The project's leader says he was ordered to lighten the skin tone after complaints about the work's racial makeup. But the school's principal says the request was only to fix shading and had nothing to do with political pressure.

The Arizona Republic reports that faces in the mural were drawn from photographs of children enrolled at Miller Valley, a K-5 school with 380 students and the highest ethnic mix of any school in Prescott.

R.E. Wall, director of Prescott's Downtown Mural Project, told USA Today that he and other artists heard slurs from passersby as they worked on the painting.

"We consistently, for two months, had people shouting racial slander from their cars," Wall said. "We had children painting with us, and here come these yells of (epithet for Blacks) and (epithet for Hispanics)."

He said school Miller Valley Elementary Principal Jeff Lane pressed him to make the children's faces appear happier and brighter.

Lane said in USA Today that he received only three complaints about the mural and that his request for a touch-up had nothing to do with political pressure. "We asked them to fix the shading on the children's faces," he said. "We were looking at it from an artistic view. Nothing at all to do with race."

Wall blames the controversy on comments by Prescott City Councilman Steve Blair on his local radio talk show, reports the Prescott Daily Courier.

On his May 21 show, for instance, Blair said, "I am not a racist individual, but I will tell you depicting a black guy in the middle of that mural, based upon who's president of the United States today and based upon the history of this community when I grew up, we had four black families - who I have been very good friends with for years - to depict the biggest picture on that building as a black person, I would have to ask the question, 'Why?'"

On Wednesday, Blair again emphasized that "I'm not a racist by any stretch of the imagination, but whenever people start talking about diversity, it's a word I can't stand."

Blair questions whether the mural is representative of Prescott, noting, "The focus doesn't need to be on what's different; the focus doesn't need to be on the minority all the time."

Blair said he has received a number of calls from long-time Prescott residents who ask, "Who authorized that graffiti on the wall?" He added: "What these people don't like is somebody forcing diversity down their throats."

The “Go on Green” mural covers two walls outside Miller Valley Elementary School, and it aims to advertise a campaign for environmentally friendly transportation. It features portraits of four children, and a Hispanic boy as the predominant figure.

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