Scott Walker Replaces Painting Of Low-Income Children With Bald Eagle

Taking a play from Gov. Paul LePage’s (R-ME) playbook, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) took down a portrait of three children on a Milwaukee street from the governor’s residence. Originally commissioned by the foundation that runs the governor’s residence, the painting depicts an African American girl who was featured in an article on homelessness, a Hispanic girl who is a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, and a white boy whose father and brother were killed by a drunk driver in 2009. Entitled “Wishes in the Wind,” local artist David Lenz said he “carefully selected” these children because “the homeless, central city children and victims of drunk drivers normally do not have a voice in politics.”

After moving in this January, Walker and first lady Tonette Walker, however, thought another painting would be more fitting for the mansion’s mantle place. Taking down “Wishes in the Wind,” the Walkers promptly replaced it with “a century-old painting of Old Abe, a Civil war-era bald eagle from Wisconsin.” “Deeply disappointed” by the move, Lenz — whose work also hangs in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery — considered the removal telling of Walker’s priorities:

“This seems symbolic,” said Lenz, referring to Walker’s proposed cuts in state funding for Milwaukee schools and city and county services, something he said would have a disproportionate impact on low-income youngsters. “You would think we could all agree on the need to support the hopes and dreams of children.” […]

“The homeless, central city children and victims of drunk drivers normally do not have a voice in politics,” Lenz explained in an email. “This painting was an opportunity for future governors to look these three children in the eye, and I hope, contemplate how their public policies might affect them and other children like them.”

He added: “I guess that was a conversation Governor Walker did not want to have.”

Walker’s spokesman Cullen Werwie flatly denied Lenz’s view as “not true.” According to his office, Walker changed the mansion’s interior design “to honor the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.” His administration is trying to lend “Wishes in the Wind” to the Milwaukee Public Library instead because “many more people will see the painting there.” Vice Chairman of the library’s Board of Trustees John Gurda, however, admitted that this is “an awkward situation” and that the library is clearly “not the place for which [the painting] was intended.”

“This is indicative of that tone-deafness,” Gurda said. “My point of view is this is not the Walkers’ house, this is Wisconsin’s house. This was commissioned by an organization that was there long before Scott Walker came in and will be there long after he is gone.” Another library board member Nik Kovac did note that “once the governor decided he didn’t want it, he did everything right.” “But the fact that he didn’t want it says a lot,” he added. (HT: Mother Jones)