RIPON, Wis. (WFRV) – A Black Lives Matter mural in Ripon is causing ripples.
Sam Luna, owner of The Heist, and Rafael Salas, an art professor at Ripon College, collaborated to paint the mural on The Heist’s wall in June.
When asked why the mural was painted, Luna says it was to start a conversation.
“We discussed the fact that we wanted to put a mural up, something to be able to show that we here in Ripon are paying attention to what’s going on and want to be apart of the positive progression that can come,” Luna tells WFRV Local 5. He adds that after much discussion with the community, they decided on painting simply ‘Black Lives Matter’ and that the goal is to make members of the Ripon community feel safe.
“There has been a lot of really positive support. Lots of people responding with support for this,” Salas says. “There has been some push-back. It’s a small town we live in but it’s an important message.” He adds that he hopes the community wants to be open to diversity and to people from all races and all backgrounds.
Luna says some families have stopped by the mural and that parents have been explaining to their children what ‘Black Lives Matter’ means.
After the mural was painted, the City of Ripon sent Luna a letter informing him that the mural is in violation of municipal code and he needed to have received approval from the Historic Preservation Commission before painting the mural. The Commission works to preserve Ripon’s historic downtown. Luna says he misunderstood the municipal code, which does allow artwork on buildings.
WFRV Local 5 reached out to the City of Ripon for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
“We are certainly apologetic for that transgression. We didn’t mean to sort of violate that ordinance,” Salas explains. “However, I think at times, relying on the law of the land or the technical aspects of the law should maybe take a second place to the trajectory of a cause or the importance of what is right. I think a small violation like that should be questioned in comparison to what the message is.”
“There have been some people pushing for it to be taken down, which is why we’re in this issue,” Luna continues. “I want to be very clear: this isn’t an issue between the city or this building. It’s elected city officials having to answer to constituents.”
Luna says he thinks a lot of the negative responses to the mural are due to a lack of knowledge regarding why he and Salas put it up.
“As people, we should be able to say [Black Lives Matter] out loud and it not make us angry,” Luna says. “And if it does, maybe take a deeper look and wonder why it is and let’s start asking those questions. Let’s have those conversations: ‘okay, this is making you angry,’ well let’s talk about that.”
“I think that the community of Ripon should question whether they should adhere to the law of the land or to join with the arc of history and the arc of social justice in our country,” Salas explains.
“No matter how big or how small our community is, we have an opportunity to be able to do something in a very positive way,” Luna adds.
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