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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Hovey Grill reopens -- with murals covered

After years of use as storage space due to the controversial -- but covered -- murals that adorn its walls, the Hovey Grill has been renovated and reopened for student use as a game room.

The decision to equip the old grill, located in the basement of Thayer Hall, with comfortable furniture, a stereo, a dartboard and other gaming equipment like pool, foosball and ping pong tables came as a result of the Student Life Initiative's push for more student recreational spaces.

"The reopening is one in a collection of things we did to increase the social options available to students," Associate Director of Student Activities Linda Kennedy said, noting that conversion costs were minimal.

Painted in the 1930s by Walter Humphrey '14, the murals that "decorate" the walls of what is now the Hovey game room were first fitted with removable panels in 1983 because of protests against their content.

Based on words to the song "Eleazer Wheelock" composed by Richard Hovey 1888, the murals depict Wheelock among inebriated and unclothed Native Americans, including a naked woman trying to read a book upside down.

After nearly two decades of controversy, however, many groups have tried to develop plans for the room's use in recent years, which had earlier served as a dining hall and night club.

In 1993, the Hood Art Museum took proprietorship of the room and its murals with the intention of creating an art gallery in the grill. Those plans never took shape, however.

In January 1999, the Student Assembly created a Social Space Task Force to examine the possibility of renovating the grill for recreational student activity.

"A variety of different options for utilizing Hovey had been considered. It had some architectural challenges, and it wasn't until this summer that we were able to make use of its centrality and overcome the weaknesses it has as a space," Kennedy said.

"The weaknesses in the room have to do with the fact that it does not have extensive ventilation ... We were looking for a use that would involve about 20 people at a time doing medium level activity."

Despite the room's reopening, the Hovey murals will remain covered. Even that decision is controversial, as opinion over whether or not to display the murals remains divided.

Art history professor Robert McGrath opposes the decision to keep the murals covered.

"I have long been a critic of the College administration for its practice of censoring the murals. The logic is that we might as well go into the library and burn any book that is offensive to any group," McGrath said. "In my view, once you open the Pandora's box of censorship, then there is no place to stop it."

In 1997, the Native American program director, Michael Hanitchak, echoed this sentiment.

"Although the murals are distinctly racist and sexist, they still have a place in art history," he said.

People interested in viewing the murals, which are managed by the Hood Museum, could ask to be shown them by a staff member, Dean of Student Life Holly Sateia said.