In a recent decision by the local school board, an LGBTQ-inclusive student mural situated inside a middle school in Michigan is set to be painted over by the end of October. This choice, made almost a year after the mural first sparked controversy, has reignited discussions about LGBTQ representation and the freedom of artistic expression within educational institutions.
Painted by a high school student in Grant, Michigan, the mural adorned the walls of a student health center at Grant Middle School, following her victory in a student art contest. The backlash initially erupted during a Grant Public Schools Board of Education meeting last October when some parents voiced their objections, citing concerns about the mural’s depiction of LGBTQ imagery. The mural featured a student wearing a T-shirt in the colors of the transgender Pride flag, two students adorned with the bisexual Pride flag colors, and another student displaying rainbow Pride colors.
Additionally, the artwork was criticized for allegedly promoting witchcraft due to the inclusion of a video game character that resembled a demon and a Hamsa Hand, also known as the Hand of Fatima, which holds significance as a symbol of protection in various cultures.
The controversy led the school board to vote in June to sever ties with Family Health Care, the operator of the Child and Adolescent Health Center at Grant Middle School, along with two other school-based health centers in the area. These centers offered essential medical, dental, and behavioral health care services to children in the community. However, following months of negotiations, the board approved a new contract with Family Health Care, contingent upon the mural’s removal.
“While it is disappointing that the mural must be removed by the end of October, it’s a compromise we reluctantly were willing to accept to ensure the children of the Grant community continue to have access to medical and behavioral health care,” expressed Family Health Care in a statement last week. The artist behind the mural, Evelyn Gonzales, had originally created it with the intention of making people feel welcome, as she tearfully explained during the school board meeting last October.
During that same meeting, one parent voiced strong opposition to the LGBTQ Pride colors, specifically characterizing transgender individuals as having a mental illness. In response to the controversy, Grant Public Schools announced that, at the artist’s request, the mural would be restored to its original form as initially submitted and approved by the Administration. This decision entailed removing the demon video game character and the Hand of Fatima.
Superintendent Brett Zuver, who had judged the mural contest, lauded the agreement as a “very positive resolution” and commended Evelyn Gonzales, describing her as “a great young lady.” In a heartwarming show of support, community members initiated a GoFundMe campaign to aid Gonzales with her college expenses.
As the mural’s fate hangs in the balance, neither Superintendent Brett Zuver nor the Grant Public Schools Board has immediately responded to inquiries regarding the recent decision to completely remove the artwork. This development underscores the ongoing debate surrounding LGBTQ representation, artistic freedom, and community acceptance within educational settings.