The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) is thinking about spending $200,000 to commission a piece of artwork in the department's Gordon Persons building in Montgomery.

According to the contract, the ALSDE would pay Dean Mosher Studio of Fairhope $200,000 in state funds for the artwork. Mosher is "renowned for historically accurate work and is recognized internationally," according to the contract.

State Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) said at a Contract Review committee meeting Thursday morning the artwork contract "created a good bit of discussion, and I've heard from multiple sources on this."

An ALSDE spokesman said at the meeting, "[D]ue to some questions from legislators, we decided to pull that and re-assess it at a later time."

Alabama State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey said in a statement “the proposed artwork was to be the centerpiece of a much bigger civics and social studies curriculum project that would allow for the creation of teaching materials and posters for classrooms designed around Alabama’s role in the history of flight.”  

“The mural then would be permanently displayed in the Rotunda of the Gordon Persons Building,” Mackey said.  “The project would also tie into our civics work leading up to the celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the United States in 2026.”

State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) said at the meeting, "I appreciate the department pulling this one and looking at it and reevaluating it."

"There was a fair amount of consternation about it, and I think it is worth reevaluating and at least spending some time explaining to this committee why that may be a good use of funds," he added.

Elliott said in an interview after the meeting that the artwork contract "could come back up in the future, but I think there were a number of members that had some serious questions about a $200,000 piece of artwork with education funds."

"We're going to look at that and talk with the Department of Education and see," he continued. "The arts are important, but we need to dig into that a little bit more."

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