Facts and Resources Concerning Issues of Exclusion in Historic Knight Library Murals

Mixed media artwork
Deanna Chappell Belcher. 'Decolonization is not a metaphor (with thanks to Tuck & Yang).' 2018. Mixed media on canvas and Plexiglas. Winner, Best in Show at 'Show Up, Stand Out, Empower!' Artist's statement: "I was inspired by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang’s article by the same name. The collage underneath shows symbols of settler colonialism across the Pacific Northwest, while the Plexiglas speaks of possibilities, especially the possibility of education—“teaching creates the infrastructure of the art of the impossible,” from Marie Battiste’s book 'Decolonizing Education: Nourishing the Learning Spirit.' Our history is something we cannot ignore, but at the same time we cannot let it prevent us from thinking of a more beautiful future, and working to make that happen. Education is how I work to make the impossible come to be."

 

Historic Knight Library: Art and Architecture Research Guide

Our comprehensive online guide to the art and architecture of the 1937 historic Knight Library was first published by the Knight Library Public Art Task Force in 2017.

The historic murals in Knight Library that have been specifically named in various complaints, petitions, and protests are:

These works are executed in the medium of paint on canvas; the canvases are affixed to the walls in the East and West stairwells of Knight Library’s historic structure.
 

'Show Up, Stand Out, Empower!' Art Exhibit, 2018-2019

In fall of 2018, the UO Libraries sponsored a student art exhibition intended, in part, to address the content of the Knight Library murals with UO students’ “creative expressions of the culture we aspire to have.” Selected works were on display in Knight Library through spring of 2019.

Two articles published at Around the O detailed, respectively, the call for submissions in April, and the opening of the 'Show Up, Stand Out, Empower!' exhibit in October of 2018.

Task Force asks for students' creative responses to muralsAround the O, April 26, 2018.

Student Art Exhibit in Library Addresses Inclusive CommunityAround the O, November 6, 2018.
 

Timeline of UO Libraries actions and announcements concerning the murals

March 2013, the UO Libraries published a story on The Runquist Project: a Report on Two Murals. The graduate student who oversaw the project in the library’s Digital Scholarship Center concluded, “. . . [these] murals raise important questions about the retention and display of monuments and artwork in public settings that we may no longer see as worthy of celebration.”

In 2017, the Knight Library Public Art Task Force was formed (in part) “to identify opportunities to respond to the art while upholding the university’s values of intellectual freedom and artistic expression.”

November 16, 2017, the Daily Emerald reported on a student-led online petition to remove the “allegedly racist” murals.

January 2018, the library task force published the Historic Knight Library: Art and Architecture research guide online.

January 30, 2018, the UO Libraries hosted a Public Art, Cultural Memory, and Anti-Racism public forum.

Through winter and spring terms of 2018, the UO Libraries mounted a physical exhibition about the art and architectural history of the building, including background and contextual information on the controversial murals.

March 5, 2018, UO Libraries hosted Allies Not Enemies: Intellectual Freedom and Social Justice, “UO Libraries’ Biennial Symposium on Freedom of Expression and Information Policy in an Era of Change.”  The Knight Library murals were one of the topics discussed at this event.

April 2018, the library issued a call for submissions to a juried student art exhibition, Show Up, Stand Out, Empower!, intended to “showcase creative expressions of the culture we aspire to have.”

April 26, 2018, Around the O promoted the call for art submissions with a feature article that included contextual information about the murals controversy. The article was later expanded and republished in the summer 2018 issue of UO Libraries’ print publication, Building Knowledge.

June 2018, the UO Libraries presented Public Art, Cultural Memory, and Anti-Racism: The Knight Library Public Art Initiative in Three Phases as part of the Divison of Equity and Inclusion's Showcase Oregon 2018 Poster Gallery: Unit Projects.

August 24, 2018, then-Dean of Libraries Adriene Lim issued a statement on the vandalization of the 'Mission of a University' mural.

October 25, 2018, the library hosted an opening reception for the student art showcase. As part of the program, Jennifer O'Neal (University Historian and Archivist) and Kevin Hatfield (Director of Academic Residential and Research Initiatives) previewed the digital project, Untold Stories: The Hidden History of the University of Oregon.

November 6, 2018, Around the O published a story on the opening of the library’s student art exhibition addressing inclusive community. This article includes a gallery of all the student works that were exhibited.

May-June 2020, student groups renewed calls for the UO to address racist Knight Library murals.

June 22, 2020, the UO Libraries published a Statement on Racism and Systemic Inequalities that includes the pledge, “We will cover the Knight Library murals that contain racist content by October 1.”

June 30, 2020, the Daily Emerald reported that the UOPD is investigating a new act of library vandalism apparently motivated (in part) as an act of protest against the murals.

September 2020, Mural coverings are installed by the Heritage Conservation Group.