Painting the White House

President Barack Obama speaking with Ruby Bridges in front of the Norman Rockwell painting of Bridges

Photo Taken By the White House – President Barack Obama speaking with Ruby Bridges in front of the Norman Rockwell painting of Bridges

By Neal Walters

Art has always been a means of expression from happiness and a painting of a sunny day on the beach to death and a dark, rainy painting of open fields. Art tells stories that can’t be clearly heard by words and are carried on from generation to generation. As our Drake in DC group toured the White House this morning, famous paintings covered the walls of the House and were the main focal points of attention in every hallway, room, and dining hall. Some of them included paintings of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Washington and even a rare painting of the Old Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Each President and First Lady chose new art to add to the immense collection, in order to place their own piece of lasting expression in the White House.

As the inaguration of Obama approaches, I thought of the kind of artwork President Obama has chosen to add and why. Obama had previously added a controversial piece of artwork in 2011 depicting the walk on the first day to school of Ruby Bridges and the hardships she had to go through during the height of the desegregation movement of public schools. The painting was moved into the West Wing and was originally painted by Norman Rockwell. The image depicted profanity that some people may be sensitive to. After our tour of the White House, I began to realize the strength of the art and the reason President Obama decided to approve the painting in the hallway outside the Oval Office.

Ruby Bridges was made famous for her herocic steps into an all white public school in New Orleans amidst a crowd of protesters. Obama, though never focusing on the racial issue of the presidency, has made strides in helping to bridge the nations racial barrier. It is a very fitting piece for the White House collection, as it shows Ruby Bridges, unphased by the protestors and racial comments, making strides into her new elementary school. This piece’s story and legacy will carry on, as all White House art does, long after Obama leaves and his impact is no longer felt.

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