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Many Oklahoma lawmakers want state Capitol mural taken down

Oklahoma House and Senate members say a new mural, dedicated in May, doesn't fit in at the state Capitol. It is the first work by a Hispanic artist to be displayed at the Capitol, but staffers say the artist's ethnicity has nothing to do with the criticism.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: August 20, 2010 at 11:34 am •  Published: August 20, 2010

"Lawmakers, when they're elected, are chosen to represent all the people in their district independent of what side of the street they live on, their racial background, their ethnic background," Ellwanger said. "This is the people's house and the artwork should reflect that, as well. This is a diverse state, and it always has been. In fact, it's an entire state of immigrants.

"The fact that we have allowed a limited and narrow scope of work to hang in these halls is perhaps an issue that we should address," Ellwanger said. "Most of the artwork in here, and I'm sorry to say this, was done by middle-aged white men. And it's time that we took a broader approach."

Warmington said he agreed there is a need for diversity of art at the Capitol.

"I don't know if the Hall of Governors is the place for it," he said.

The mural was paid for by the Friends of the Capitol, a nonprofit group that helps fund art and repairs at the Capitol. The State Capitol Preservation Commission approved the mural and where it should be placed. Warmington, a member of the commission, voted for the mural.

Tello took inspiration for his mural from Oklahoma's centennial theme, "A unique history. An extraordinary future."

The left side depicts the state's history from land runs to the Dust Bowl, while the right side focuses on industries such as energy and space exploration.

Ellwanger suggested to Warmington and Ziriax that legislators upset with the mural appear before the commission.

"I, for one, will not succumb to that kind of pressure," he said. "It's an excellent piece of art."