Texas Southern University President John Rudley is now saying he gave the order to paint over 2 murals in Hannah Hall created 40 years ago by longtime TSU art professor Harvey Johnson. An earlier official statement issued by the university — and an abc13 story last week — had claimed the whitewashing had been a “mistake.” But Rudley fesses up to the Chronicle:
Rudley said the murals, which covered two walls in the Hannah Hall administration building, had become eyesores.
“When I bring dignitaries to campus, I can’t have them seeing that kind of thing,” Rudley said. “All art isn’t good art.”
Mural painting is a required course for TSU art students, and for decades the halls of the administration building have served as a canvas for the works of seniors. “Some murals have obviously been more successful than others,” wrote art museum director Alvia Wardlaw in her book on the murals of longtime TSU professor John Biggers, who founded the university art program in 1949. “After a few months those which do not pass the test of repeated viewing are painted over, and those segments are assigned to other students. It is a great challenge to a student to be given a chance to paint a mural which may become a permanent part of a busy building, viewed by thousands each year.”
Johnson was a student and later a colleague of Biggers who collaborated with him on several mural projects a few years before his mentor’s death in 2001. Johnson’s destroyed murals, “Mothers of ‘the Father and the Son’,” (top) and “Dere’s a ‘Han Writin on de Wall'” (below) had survived repeated viewings since he painted them as a senior himself, in 1971.
- TSU paints over murals created by retired prof [Houston Chronicle]
- Artist, students upset about painted-over mural at TSU [abc13]
- Legacy [The Houston Murals of John Thomas Biggers]