Artist gets time to argue against covering unwanted murals

May 6, 2021 GMT

SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. (AP) — A federal court judge is giving an artist more time to explain how the Vermont Law School’s plan to cover a pair of murals he painted nearly three decades ago that the school community now regards as racially insensitive might damage the artwork.

The murals by then-Vermont-based artist Sam Kerson were intended to honor African Americans and abolitionists involved in the Underground Railroad. Vermont Law School announced last year that it planned to paint over them after some school community members said the depictions are offensive. Students and others have condemned the artwork as having exaggerated and dated depictions of slaves and enslavers.

A federal judge ruled in March that the school can put up a wall to hide the murals as long as the murals are unharmed, the Valley News reported. The school plans to cover them with acoustic tile.


In an April 30 order, U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford gave Kerson until July 9 to make his case. The law school will have until Aug. 2 to respond.

Kerson argues that the plan violates his rights under the federal Visual Artists Rights Act, the newspaper reported.

“The intentional covering of the murals — whether physically touching the wall or not — constitutes an impermissible modification of the artwork,” wrote Kerson’s lawyers, Richard Rubin, of Barre, Vt., and Steven Hyman, a former president of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in their request for more time.