Professor critiques Southeast mural project

The most positive aspect of the new mural commissioned by Southeast Missouri State University is that it is not a mural at all, since it will be painted on canvas and hung on a wall at the River Campus. This means that eventually, when more aesthetically enlightened views prevail, it may be removed to a location more appropriate to its subject matter: river boats.

Like the old concrete Indian that once stood over the entrance to the Houck Stadium, the mural may appeal to local nostalgia, but it will proclaim to the rest of the world that Cape Girardeau is still an isolated out of touch cultural backwater. This is unfortunate. The River Campus project might potentially raise our region in the estimation of the art world by its comparison with recently completed new arts institutions in Missouri -- the Daume Museum in Sedalia, the Museum of Contemporary Art in St. Louis, the Pulitzer Foundation, and Washington University's new art and design complex. Instead this mural will draw a sharp and unflattering contrast with them.

It has been universally denounced by the arts faculty who will teach at the River Campus because it has nothing to do with the arts. While Mr. Lucy may be a diligent historical illustrator, he is no artist and his work has no standing in the art world. His work appeals to people who know nothing and care less about the art of our time. This mural is certainly a conscious thumb to the eye of the current Southeast Missouri State University Department of Art. It celebrates the regional corn pone parochialism we had hoped to grow out of. Anyone who tries to teach painting at the River Campus will have to teach against the mural's example.

Mercifully, I am near enough to early retirement so that I may never really have to feel that burden.

Clayton is a professor of painting and drawing at Southeast Missouri State University.