Committee denies repainting "Black Humanity Now" mural in downtown Racine

NOW: Committee denies repainting “Black Humanity Now“ mural in downtown Racine

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RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A street mural in Racine will not be restored after a vote from the city's Public Works and Services committee Wednesday, Aug. 11.

From a birds-eye view, the area of Wisconsin Avenue between 7th and 8th Street in downtown Racine reads "Black Humanity Now" in yellow block-letters. Those letters are now fading - and will stay that way.

The mural was painted by local artist, Scott Terry, after a unanimous approval from the city in 2020. The work was in response to the death of George Floyd, and the civil awareness of black inequity.

"It's more than just paint on the street. It's way more than that," Terry said, "Art is a way to build communities. It's really unique to specific communities. It's economy and culture."

As the painting has faded over two years, Terry brought a request to Racine's Public Works and Services committee to redo the artwork. After lengthy discussion on Wednesday, the motion was denied by all committee members except for one.

"It violates federal law, it violates state law, it violates city ordinances," Alderman Henry Perez said.

During the meeting, the city attorney explained that legal issues prevent the artwork from being done. Perez said those issues were unclear when the mural was initially approved.

"If we set precedent again by approving it this time, then we're just opening up to other people who want to make political statements and just do whatever on the street," Perez said.

Alderman C.J. Rouse was the only committee member in favor of repainting the mural, or at least of bringing the issue to the main city council.

"I thought it was a complex enough topic that it was worthy of a broad discussion that brought in more voices than just, 'here's the technical engineering, here's the technical legal opinion.' I thought it was a larger, more culturally relevant question," Rouse said.

He learned other communities have established ordinances apart from state statutes that allow this type of street art.

"I'm in Madison currently. I'm trying to meet with traffic engineer and artistic director of the street painting programs they have in Madison to learn how we can bring it back to Racine," Rouse said.

Despite a disappointing outcome, artist Scott Terry is staying resilient.

"The plan is to rebirth this and put it in another location," Terry said.

While the mural won't be restored, city leaders are not planning to cover or remove it - it will just continue to fade.

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