So what exactly should we do when people consider extant art racist?

In 2020, the Vermont Law School decided that the solution was to use acoustic tiles to cover a pair of murals. The U.S. Court of Appeals recently rejected the claim by artist Samuel Kerson that the decision violated his rights under the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act. But even if the court’s interpretation was correct and federal law doesn’t protect a work from being covered, the ruling shouldn’t be the end of the matter; not, at least, for those who love art.

Let’s go back to the beginning. In 1993, the school retained Kerson to paint the murals for a community room. Titled "The Underground Railroad, Vermont and the Fugitive Slave," the work was supposed to decry the horrors of human enslavement and laud those brave and lucky enough to escape. An admiring reviewer at the time described Kerson’s style as "heavily symbolic, with exaggerated human figures that burst with energy.”