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Civil rights painting a must-see

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Lawyer Paul Mitchell's limited edition print of Norman Rockwell's civil rights statement painting The Problem We All Live With is on display for public viewing in the fourth floor lobby of Pushor Mitchell.
The fourth floor lobby at Pushor Mitchell Lawyers in Kelowna has become a bit of an art gallery.
"It's a nice space in the natural light under the glass dome," said partner Paul Mitchell.
"We hang works of art there for our lawyers, staff and clients to enjoy. And now we're also inviting the general public up to have a look because we have a very important piece hanging there right now."
That very important piece is one of only 200 signed prints of painter Norman Rockwell's The Problem We All Live With (1964) depicting a little black girl being escorted to a newly desegregated school in New Orleans by four U.S. marshals while white housewives hurl profanities and tomatoes.
"I bought it at a U.S. auction from a private collector three years ago," said Mitchell.
"It really spoke to me. The civil rights movement is close to my heart. Plus, I'm an art fanatic."
Mitchell decided to bring the print to work and hang it pride of place in the lighted lobby to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is a national holiday today in the U.S. recognizing King's trailblazing civil rights efforts.
The Problem We All Live With will continue to be on display through February in support of Black History Month.
Pushor Mitchell is in the office building at the corner of Ellis Street and Leon Avenue downtown.
"Rockwell's painting depicts history and it epitomizes how art can impact society," said Mitchell, who is also on the Kelowna Art Gallery board.
The scene Rockwell immortalized is of six-year-old Ruby Bridges, who was escorted by marshals to Frantz Elementary School in 1960 to keep her safe from the racist angry mob that had gathered outside.
However, the painting didn't appear as the centrefold of Look magazine until January 1964.
For more than 40 years, Rockwell did cover illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post magazine portraying apple-pie, whitebread America.
Advertisers didn't want to see blacks on those covers unless they were in a background or servant role.
After all, it was segregated America, and the Post's mostly white readership didn't want to see blacks in prominent roles.
However, leaving the Post in 1963 and taking up with Look gave Rockwell the opportunity to place The Problem We All Live With.
Look art director Allen Hurlburt not only allowed the piece, but featured it prominently in the magazine and challenged magazine advertisers and readers to deal with the issue of racism in America.
It was controversial, but the painting is credited with helping some readers and other other white Americans to be more accepting of integration.
The Problem We All Live With went on to become one of Rockwell's most famous paintings and is the most popular original hanging at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.
Rockwell died in 1978 at age 84.
For four months in 2011 the original hung in the hallway outside the Oval Office at the White House at the request of the U.S.'s first black president, Barack Obama.
Then age 56, Ruby Bridges made the trip to the White House to admire the painting with Obama and reminisce about how far the civil rights movement has come.
Also currently on display in the Pushor Mitchell lobby are paintings by First Nations artist Norvl Morrisseau and Okanagan painters Rod Charlesworth, Sandra Chapman and Debra Martin.
The boardroom is adorned with pop art.

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