At the old art deco Ada County Courthouse in Boise they’re considering painting over WPA murals, uncovered after sixty-six years.

Read the AP story in the Albuquerque Tribune. Another version here in the NY Times. Fascinating how the Idaho Statesman hasn’t had the chance to mention this story. Here’s another version of the same story, with more historical information (mentions the artists, Ivan Bartlett and Jean Donald Swiggett).

What sort of mural gets forgotten for six decades?

Well, a mural of a couple of cowboy dudes getting set to lynch a naked red man. That’s what sort. Painted in California in the 1940s and hidden for years, this weird time traveler reminds us how just a generation ago the status of native people was second class – where “frontier justice” was the pride of the pioneers.

The Native tribal leaders want it painted over. Probably every politician in Idaho is running away from this one. (Gosh! That’s a dern shame. Better get some whitewash.)

NPR chimes in with a stupid piece of ambiguous radio. So stupid they followed it up the next day with a “letter” from a listener which put the issue plainly.

Well – actually – the murals weren’t “forgotten.” The artist and the work is well recorded at the WPA murals web site.

Regardless of the mural’s artistic merit, it now is a piece of history and needlessly demolishing it or shutting it away again shoves aside an important and hard lesson.

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