Mural shall ‘shine like a beacon’

Letter to the editor

To the editor:
   I feel that I must respond to criticism issued by Dr. David Abalos with regard to the recently completed mural at Hightstown High School.
   Since work on the mural began, I have received only positive comments and encouragement from students, staff and community. I never expected that the only problems concerning the mural would come from someone who chose to "showboat" his negative comments to the press instead of talking to me about his concerns. Dr. Abalos’ criticism was not about art-related matters. Rather, it was about the way certain cultures and ethnic groups, in his opinion, were not represented.
   My original intent was to pour positive thought and constructive imagery into the mural. It started out to simply be a unique wall decoration but then grew into a concept of challenge, discovery and celebration of life with multiple levels of symbolism. Not one culture or person was portrayed in a negative way. I tried to choose the finest enduring visual images of many cultures and time periods.
   Dr. Abalos seems to have taken offense that every ethnic group, culture and important figure should have been included within that 40-foot mural area. His criticism also suggests that one area of the mural is more important than another. This approach was unthinkable, as our attempt was to show how everyone and everything is interrelated.
   As I stated in the article ("Questions raised over mural’s ethnic inclusiveness," May 3, 2002, Page 3A), "when someone criticizes (the mural) they are criticizing me." I take personal affront to his remarks, but they almost seem laughable because, among my professional achievements, I have received a state award from the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.
   Dr. Abalos apparently has the need to see his name printed in public view at the expense of my reputation. What angers me the most is that his insensitive comments placed me in a very difficult position in the classroom. Students became quite outraged and vocal at his critical remarks. Thankfully, the integrity of our students remains intact for they understand this was only the reaction of one person and is not shared by others.
   I hope that in the future Dr. Abalos concentrates on his own political agenda and refrains from his role as art critic, the latter showing that his lack of knowledge of symbolism in art history is only overshadowed by his insensitive interpretations. Any great work of art is usually surrounded by controversy and I suppose I have Dr. Abalos to thank for creating that. His reference to the mural as "a very narrow beam of light" is incomplete, however, for when light is focused in a concentrated area, it can become more powerful and is able to travel a greater distance. I know that the positive spirit in which this mural was created will shine like a beacon, go the distance and will be strong enough to withstand any criticism.
William S. Plank Jr.