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Boone County working to find new home for Sidney Larson murals

Columbia, Mo (KMIZ)

The Boone County Commission is now trying to find a new location for two murals that included images some local lawyers and judges found objectionable.

The commission voted Thursday to remove the murals from the landings of the courthouse staircase. They were painted in 1994 by artist Sidney Larson. Included are images of violence and slavery that those seeking their removal argued send the wrong message for people dealing with the criminal justice system.

The commission's order requires the murals to be moved to a secure location where the art can be cared for appropriately. The murals, for now, are still hanging in the courthouse.

Janet Thompson, Boone County Northern District commissioner, said the county wants to keep the murals close to home because of Larson's connections.

"We've been in contact with various organizations here in Boone County to see if there might be space for them if there's a willingness to take them," Thompson said. She said some employees in the Columbia College art department, where Larson worked, have volunteered to help remove the murals.

The paintings would need to be kept in a temperature-controlled room to prevent damage. The county commissioners have reached out to the State Historical Society of Missouri, but they don't have any open space.

In July, a group of lawyers wrote to the commission asking that the murals be removed because they felt the murals impede the orderly and equitable administration of justice. The motion to move the murals passed 2-0, with Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill abstaining.

Atwill said he did not vote because the order lacked context for the removal, process and people involved.

"I will abstain from this because it doesn't recognize either the people who took their time to present the case to this commission on Sept. 28 nor does it recognize the good intentions of people who spent time and money to create and present these to the citizens of the county," Atwill said. "And it also flies in the face of the previous commission that felt this was an appropriate thing to do."

Thompson said she anticipates removal costs to be below the threshold for seeking public bids for the work.

"We are confident this is below the bid threshold…and because this is personal services, this is something that doesn't have to be bid… threshold for the state is 12 thousand dollars so that it will be well below that," said Thompson.

The official home for the new murals will be announced at the end of the month.

Joushua Blount

Joushua Blount hails from Cleveland, Ohio and has a bachelor’s degree in media communications from the University of Toledo. He also has a master’s degree from the University Of Alabama. Roll Tide!


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