Art & Old Glory

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), March 17, 2012 | Go to article overview

Art & Old Glory


Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - Turns out Springfield has more than one mural that displays the U.S. flag in a way that doesn't follow flag protocol.

The issue has been festering among a group of residents who think that art should be subject to the same federal suggestions governing the actual flag.

A mural on an outside wall at Springfield High School shows the U.S. flag and the Mexican flag as well as flags of several other nations, including Ireland and South Africa. It was designed by students six years ago who were interested in conveying the diversity and unity of the students there, according to district officials.

But Springfield resident Curtiss Greer has been a regular presence at recent school board meetings, objecting to the fact that the U.S. flag isn't more prominently displayed in the mural, that it doesn't follow the protocol for displaying the flag spelled out by federal code and that the mural's message suggests that the United States is no better than any other nation.

In comments to the board, Greer not only criticized the art, but also called into question the patriotism of the current and previous Springfield High School principals, prompting a rebuke from Board President Garry Weber who warned Greer to limit his critiques to policies and not individuals.

Greer wants the school board to change the mural, which displays the U.S. flag in the upper right corner of the painting. The Mexican flag is in the upper left position. Flags from several other countries are less prominently displayed. Federal flag protocol calls for the flag to be placed to the left when people are facing it.

The high school mural flag is in the exact same position as a U.S. flag on a mural covering the east side of the Emerald Art Center on Main Street. So far, no one is complaining about that mural, at least not to Niles Schartz or Riley Smith, who serve on the Springfield Arts Commission, a citizen group appointed by the City Council.

Schartz, a general contractor and former Marine, doesn't think the school mural should be changed for the simple reason that a painting of a flag is not the same as a flag.

"I'm an ex-Marine, and I can understand the point" of respecting the flag, said Schartz, who has served in color guards carrying the flag. But he thinks the high school mural shows the flag in a respectful way.

"When you look at it, it's pretty dominant," he said.

And Smith, a tattoo artist who regularly puts flag art on soldiers' bodies, thinks the mural conveys a positive feeling.

Flag art on a building facing Pioneer Parkway at Main Street shows an eagle's head with a flag, and it also doesn't conform to flag protocol, the two men noted.

Because it's just paint on a wall and not an actual flag, Smith said he doesn't have a problem with it.

And that is Robin Hickman's take as well. …

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