Mural displayed at Manatee High School in protest of budget cuts

HERALD STAFF REPORTJune 4, 2013 

BRADENTON -- To protest school district budget cuts, Manatee High School art students unveiled a replica of one of the highest-priced paintings ever sold at an art auction.

"Our School District as you know has mismanaged our money to the point that they have been taking our money at the school level for the last 2-and-a-half-months to replenish the district reserve account that is required by the state of Florida," according to a document released Monday by the protestors.

"In doing so they have

left all the school sites with no money to operate with. As a result we have no money at the school level to purchase paper and supplies for us to do our jobs."

Robert Reiber's art students made the protest piece when they couldn't use school kilns to fire pottery. Reiber said it took 40 students approximately 300 hours to make the mural out of recycled materials as a protest to school district budget cuts.

The mural is a replica of "The Scream" by Edvard Munch. The Scream sold for nearly $120 million at Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern art auction last year to financier Leon Black.

The two-story mural was unveiled early Monday morning before the rain.

The protest art garnered reaction from district leaders unhappy with the statement that went along with the art.

Superintendent of Schools Rick Mills said Monday at the school board meeting that he didn't know how kilns being shut down were related to budget cuts.

The protest letter said the school has had to solicit money from parents to pay for functions the department of education normally has funded.

The art protest goes specifically to a problem with a ceramic arts class kiln shut down since February because it didn't have a hood necessary for ventilation.

The class provides ceramic art for the Manatee Education Foundation to auction off to fund scholarships for students in the district.

"While the district claims that they did not have the money to remedy the problem with the kilns: A problem that directly impacts the education of the children, it did have the money to hire a new District Superintendant and two new Assistant Superintendents at the expense of more than $140,000.00 in spending above the current level.

"In short Our School Board and New Superintendant need to lead by example. If they expect us to have to cut back spending then they need to do the same. They have the money to hire two new Assistant Superintendents but no money to fix school district equipment that directly impacts the education of the students in Manatee County."

After Monday's school board meeting, Mills said "we are looking into the matter to see what the concern is."

With no spending for art supplies, the Manatee High art class used recycled paper to create the protest piece.

"The project was used to show the students how art is used in society to evoke feelings and emotion when change in direction is needed," the statement read.

Don Hall, deputy superintendent of operations, said a portion of the school "donations" from internal accounts -- money raised through activities such as year book sales and parent donations -- will be repaid.

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