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Candidate says Swastika style symbol in City Hall Mural should go

Is the symbol in this Native American mural too much like a swastika to be allowed to stay on the wall of the Cedar Rapids city council chambers?

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) – Vibrant murals surround the mayor and council at every meeting in city hall. The politically charged pieces were painted at the height of the depression by students of famed local artist Grant Wood. Some depict farm scenes, police officers busting criminals or firefighters hard at work. But one is now getting extra attention and a city council candidate is questioning whether it needs to be removed. 5th District Candidate Ashley Vanorny points to the unusual scene of three Native Americans and bird-like creatures in front of a teepee. Scrawled on the teepee on the right side of the panel is what, at first glance, appears to be a swastika.

Vanorny says she is well aware that the symbol originated in ancient times and was actually a sign of good luck to Native Americans. But she says since it was adopted by Hitler prior to World War II it now represents evil and as someone who had relatives who escaped the Nazi terror, she wonders if it belongs in city hall. The murals were part of the old federal building and were actually painted over in the past, before being uncovered several years ago and restored when the city took over the building following the floods, “ I don’t know that even given that, if it deserves a place in city hall. I just think we have a rich history with Grant Wood and other artists that are local that might be really great to celebrate here instead.”

The city says no one has ever complained about the symbol before, though it is explained in a lecture about the murals on YouTube and on the city website. Mel Andringa with Legion Arts is one of the presenters in that series and says we have lost the ability to read and interpret paintings. He says if you look closely, the image is clearly flipped and is not a Swastika design. He says instead of covering or removing the mural, it should be seen as an excellent opportunity to educate, “ We shouldn’t remove them, because we’ve removed these particular murals twice in totality. Why should we now start removing them in bits and pieces. I just don’t think that it’s the way to go, So much of our opinions are shaped by our fears and emotions.”

Andringa says if anyone should be offended, it’s minorities including African Americans and Chinese who are depicted in intolerable conditions. He says perhaps the Native American symbol could use a printed explanation nearby, but it should stay. Vanorny says her only goal is to do what she has done all during her campaign and start a conversation to listen to what constituents think. She says some may know the history of the symbol well, but others may be immediately offended and at the very least they should be able to readily find the truth about what they are seeing. To watch the presentation on the murals in the city council chambers click here.

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