A Colorado city building art piece featuring a police officer dressed as a member of the KKK holding a black child at gunpoint has sparked controversy.
A Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy student painted the piece after being instructed to craft and re-contextualize a previous work, 9 News reports. Now she is set to meet authorities March 23 to discuss taking the piece down.
The student chose to use Goya’s “The Third of May 1808” for her project and copied Michael D’Antuono’s painting titled “A Tale of Two Hoodies."
D’Antuono, the original artist behind the controversial depiction, said he was inspired to paint the piece after Trayvon Martin was killed.
“All of my art is meant to challenge people to think more deeply about serious issues and perhaps even inspire them to improve sociopolitical conditions,” D’Antuono explained in an interview with New American Paintings.
“The inspiration for my painting "A Tale Of Two Hoodies" came less from George Zimmerman than the police who were willing to sweep the whole incident under the rug,” he added. “As bad as the act of profiling by one overzealous racist individual was, it seemed less horrifying than the idea that a whole police department could be so racist as to not hold or even take the gun away from someone who murdered an unarmed teenager.”
Yet despite its underlying call for social change, the piece has sparked controversy; authorities are requesting the student take the piece down.
"I'm greatly concerned about how this painting portrays the police," Denver Chief of Police Robert White said. " I look forward to having a conversation with the student and her parents."
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, himself an African-American, also found the piece controversial and intends to talk about it with the student alongside police March 23:
We absolutely value the voices of our young artists, which is why we display their work every year. We also greatly respect the impact this art has had on our officers who serve and protect Denver and others in the community. But there is an opportunity here, too, to listen and learn from each other and to encourage our students to engage in difficult conversations. That is exactly the intention of DPS and the city as we continue to address the community's concerns.