The University of Wisconsin-Stout has decided to take down historical paintings that show interactions between white settlers and First Nations people because of their potentially “harmful” effects on students and viewers. The move was sparked by complaints from a diversity group.
One of the paintings shows French fur traders canoeing down the Red Cedar River with American Indians; the other is of a French fort. Both were painted by artist Cal Peters in 1936 and were recently restored with funding by the Wisconsin Historical Society.
After 80 years of decorating the university’s Harvey Hall, the paintings caught the attention of the school’s Diversity Leadership Team (DLT), which complained to the administration that this depiction of First Nations people reinforced racial stereotypes and promoted “acts of domination and oppression.”
After a series of consultations with students, Chancellor Bob Meyer announced the works would removed from the first and second floors of Harvey Hall, as they risked “having a harmful effect on our students and other viewers.”
If the paintings are displayed, it should be in a “controlled gallery space,” he said, with appropriate “context”for viewers. However, the school says that for now, Peters’ works will most likely stay out of public view.