The Boone County Commission unanimously approved giving a pair of murals depicting county history to Columbia College, where their creator, Sid Larson, taught art for 50 years.
“The people that are still in the department trained under Sid Larson,” Northern District Commissioner Janet Thompson said after the meeting Tuesday afternoon. “So it’s the perfect kind of continuity, and almost closing of the circle to say that those paintings go back to a place, an institution of higher learning, where everyone is steeped in the tradition of Sid Larson.”
The three-member commission approved college President David Russell’s request for possession of the murals, which were created for the Boone County Courthouse expansion in 1994 and taken down this fall.
The decision will allow the college to preserve and store the murals, in cooperation with the county, until they can be properly exhibited.
“I’m hopeful that (Columbia College) will be a great place for art that reflects our history and a great place for vibrant and robust discussions that can happen in the space of an educational institution,” Thompson said.
Retired Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler and attorney Rusty Antel, both members of the Boone County Bar Association, spearheaded the removal effort. They cited concerns that the mural’s graphic depictions of extrajudicial punishment, including whipping and lynching, were not appropriate to display in a hall of justice.
The commission removed them from the courthouse after public debate this fall, but there was no such discussion among the commissioners at the meeting.
The agreement ensures that preserving the murals will not cost the county any money, a concern raised in deliberations about their removal.