Vermont Law School mural court hearing to take place at the school

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    A panel from a mural by Sam Kerson that had been displayed at Vermont Law School in Royalton, Vt. The school plans to paint over the mural, "The Underground Railroad Vermont and the Fugitive Slave," painted in 1993, because "the depictions of the African-Americans on the mural are offensive to many in our community and, upon reflection and consultation, we have determined that the mural is not consistent with our School’s commitment to fairness, inclusion, diversity, and social justice," according to a statement from VLS Dean Dean Thomas McHenry on July 6, 2020. (Image courtesy Sam Kerson)

Published: 8/10/2021 3:11:46 PM
Modified: 8/10/2021 3:12:21 PM
Staff Report

SOUTH ROYALTON — A hearing in the federal lawsuit an artist has filed against Vermont Law School is set to take place at the school this fall.

In a recent filing, U.S. District Court set the hearing for 10 a.m. Oct. 8 in the law school’s Oakes Hall.

The venue is adjacent to VLS’ Chase Community Center, where artist Sam Kerson painted two murals in 1993 and 1994 depicting Vermont’s role in the Underground Railroad. In recent years, criticism of the murals’ depiction of African Americans has led to calls for their removal.

The law school announced plans last year to paint over the murals. Kerson filed suit in December, saying that the federal Visual Artists Rights Act prevents the law school from covering them up.

While U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford ruled in March that the law school could cover the murals, so long as the murals aren’t harmed, he later gave Kerson more time to determine whether the law school’s plan might damage the paintings.

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