PRESCOTT, AZ - Nearly 500 people turned out Saturday to protest changes that were being made to a mural outside a Prescott school.
Recent changes made to the colorful mural on the front of Miller Valley Elementary school had some in the northern Arizona town, like Barbara Braswell, turning every shade of angry.
"Do you see? Do you see where they tried to lighten that guy's face up there?," she asked her children Friday.
"I think it's absolutely unbelievable. I think it's teaching our kids that racism is alright," Susan Griffin agreed.
Two months in the making, the mural depicts children escaping a crowded cityscape into more natural surroundings, but some in the city have taken exception to the colors in the mural.
Some called for the colors of the children's skin to be changed. School board officials approached the artist, R.E. Wall, demanding they be lightened.
"We were asked by members of the school board and our sponsor, Prescott Alternative Transportation to lighten the faces in order to make it a more comfortable situation," Wall said.
The notion of lightening the faces, which are based on actual students in the school, is not sitting well with some parents.
Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Kevin Kapp said on Saturday that school officials had asked the artists to lighten the colors on the face of the main subject to depict sunshine, as if he were bursting into the open.
But not everyone saw it that way.
"To say that you have to lighten up these faces because the only way to look good or to represent our city in a positive way would be to have white kids on the mural is absurdly racist," Braswell said.
"I absolutely do not think they should change it. I think it's sending a terrible message," Griffin agreed.
The artist began to change the color of one face, but says the paint wouldn't take.
"So we stopped right there, ordered more paint, and all this hub-bub started," Wall said.
The artist said after hearing from many concerned parents he wasn't sure he'd be able to follow through with the color change.
"What I have to answer to is my conscience," Wall said.
Kapp said a decision has been made to leave the mural as it was created and restore the child's complexion to its original hue.
"The issue is Prescott, Arizona is a diverse community and we should celebrate, that's the issue … and the mural does display diversity and that is the most important topic of all," Kapp said.
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