Conversations about diversity continue after Jesus Mural restoration

Restoration of the Jesus Mural continues to create conversations regarding diversity.

With improvements being made to the Jesus Mural over this last year, the conversation and controversy have continued.

Through fall 2011 and spring 2012, two of president Barry Corey’s eight initiatives that he announced on Sept. 23, 2010 about the Jesus Mural have been addressed. The Jesus Mural has been restored, and the olive tree and landscaping have been completed. In the midst of these improvements, the conversations surrounding the Jesus Mural have continued.

“I definitely think that those kind of conversations need to continue without the sort of instigation or controversy the Jesus Mural brought up. Those conversations about race don’t come to the table,” said Shaunna Huynh, a sophomore art major. “People who live where we live don’t see a lot of things like that so unless something instigates that, I don’t think it will be talked about.”

Conversations continue about Jesus Mural

President Barry Corey’s first initiative was to restore the Jesus Mural more than 10 years after it had been painted on the side of Bardwell Hall. It took over a year to get the artist scheduled and funds lined up to restore the mural from its otherwise disgraceful condition with the paint peeling and the mural deteriorating, Ken Bascom, senior director of facilities planning and construction, said.

Bascom explained that he felt it was the right thing to do to restore the mural.

“The community really profited from the very thought-through and detailed discussion of the mural and I’m glad to see the mural restored to its original condition,” he said.

The third initiative was to include a plaque at the bottom of the tree that would convey artist Kent Twitchell’s motivation in creating the Jesus Mural and explain some of the controversy around it.

“With this restored mural, I am proposing the following to give necessary context to the important conversations this mural has elicited over the years,” Corey said in 2010.

New mural, Mosaic Cultural Center in planning stages

Corey proposed other initiatives inspired by the Jesus Mural debate. These include commissioning a new mural, creating the Mosaic Cultural Center, putting together a cross-cultural task force, reconstructing the diversity center leadership model, and reconnecting with Los Angeles and serving the city.

The space for the Mosaic Cultural Center has been identified. It will be in Rose Hall where the current English as a Second Language Program is. The program will have that space vacated in the next few weeks. There is a plan for the multicultural center which Doretha O’Quinn, vice provost of multi-ethnic and cross cultural engagement, has approved. The budget proposal for that is now being written, according to Bascom.

Becoming more culturally aware

One of Corey’s initiatives was celebrating the Year of the Arts at Biola during the 2011-2012 school year. The Year of the Arts came out of the Jesus Mural discussion, according to Jonathan Anderson, an assistant art professor.

Anderson thought that the implementation of the Year of the Arts really opened the eyes of students to look at not only the Jesus Mural, but art in general in terms of racial, theological, and overall value and place with Christians.   

“I agree that the conversation needs to keep going and that you can’t presume to solve everything having a semester or two or two years devoted to this topic. I’m all for the conversation to be continuing and all for it continuing to be healing and reconciliatory,” Anderson said.

Ivan Chung, director of International Student Services, was an important voice during the discussion over the Jesus Mural in terms of its racial and cultural ramifications. He said he did not believe that Biola was getting much more culturally aware.

“I don’t think we have a huge measure of cultural and ethnic awareness even though that demographic — all those people groups — has grown. If we are really teaching [diversity] and are intentional about some of these things that seem to add a lot of layers of complexity on our campus … there would be change,” Chung said.

Chung shared that if Biola really had this conversation about racial diversity and cultural-awareness in the right way, he would see an “inside-out effect on the kingdom of God.” He expressed that he would see people interested not only in student’s cultures but also in the students themselves and whether or not they are deeply understood. Chung thought that the Jesus Mural could do a lot for Biola in terms of having these kinds of conversations about race and diversity on campus.

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