“It is easy sometimes to forget about what has happened in our country’s past," said Mayor Lovely Warren, (D) Rochester. "It is easy to overlook it when you don’t necessarily see it every day, or experience it every day, but I am completely impressed with the display, with the educational portion of it, and the fact that it tells a unique and interesting story about this particular art and why it is so offensive to people of color.”
The panel from Dentzel Carousel in Ontario Beach Park features a style of artwork known as “pickaninny” that depicts black children in an exaggerated way.
In 2015 some said the panel was offensive and should be removed. Others said that was an overreaction to a historic piece of art.
“If this was a swastika, many people would not have any hesitation about why this particular piece would need to come down, they would not have any hesitation to call for its removal," Warren said. "We all have learned, I can tell you that I have learned a lot during this process.”
Organizers hope the lessons will continue now that the panel has been turned into an exhibit about racism.
“The eight-month long struggle to have it removed was well worth it for us, and for this entire community," said Rev. Clifford Florence of the Central Church of Christ. “An extraordinary opportunity to engage in a deep, meaningful, continuous and sustained dialogue; an education regarding the historic and ongoing nature and essence and impact of individual, institutional and structural racism on all of us.”
Officials say even though the exhibit is making its debut here at the Central Church of Christ, that’s only the first stop on a journey throughout the city.
The Rochester Museum and Science Center constructed it as a traveling exhibit that spends roughly a couple months at each stop. It’s all to spread the teachable moments.
“Every one of us needs to have this private conversation with ourselves to understand exactly what does racism mean to us," said Kate Bennett of the Rochester Museum and Science Center. "And how does it affect our daily lives, how does it affect the institutions we work in, and how does it affect the future of our country.”