Elgin residents outraged over lynching art: 'It serves no purpose'

A mural tucked away and almost out of view between two downtown Elgin streets is getting national attention for what the artist did not paint.

FOX 32 first told you about the controversy Wednesday night. The mural is only half of a photo from 1930 that shows the public lynching of two black men.

On Thursday, FOX 32 went back to Elgin because it's the question everyone wants answered: what was the artist thinking? For two days FOX 32 has tried to get David Powers to explain his piece of art, hoping his own words might ease the tension it's created in Elgin. 

FOX 32: What’s your first thought when you saw the other half of the picture?

“That's effed up, I'm just gonna come right out and say it,” said Jay Levita.

Art has a way of sparking discussions. But the piece hanging in downtown Elgin has tempers flaring.

“We all know what it means and it serves no purpose in Elgin,” said Demitrius Smith.

The reality is it's been here for years, and no one thought a thing about it. Until Monday night, when Richard Farr took a walk with a fellow history buff who connected the mural to an infamous photo from Marion, Indiana in 1930.

“Then he pulled it up on his phone and I was like wow, you're right,” said Richard Farr.

Farr's Facebook post took off, and 48 hours later the discussions haven't stopped.

“You can't just blame the artist right? Artists draw things,” Levita said.

“If he did do this though, what was his point chopping off the rest of it?” Smith said.

FOX 32 tried asking the artist David Powers for a comment, but he refused.

But he did have this to say to the Tribune: "These were vigilantes, criminals, who murdered people in the streets. I find it abhorrent and awful."

“What he was hoping to achieve was the feeling that this can't happen again,” said Kristine Rogowski, City of Elgin Communications Director.

The mural has made its way onto the City Council's agenda to figure out what happens next.

“Elgin is not gonna let is stay up regardless of how the meeting goes. It's gonna come out of Elgin that's for sure,” Smith added.

The city has scheduled two public input meetings, with the first on June 7th and the other June 13th. The City Council will then vote on whether or not the mural comes down.

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