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Panther-themed painting set to replace offensive carousel panel

Nearly two years after a racist painting was removed from the Dentzel Carousel at Ontario Beach Park, a new painting has been voted to take its place. (Photo provided by Michael DeLuca)

Rochester, N.Y. (13WHAM) - Nearly two years after a racist painting was removed from the Dentzel Carousel at Ontario Beach Park, a new painting has been voted to take its place.

The new painting will feature a panther.

"It’s great because it incorporates everything going on in the past and then now," said Marie Burwell, who frequently walks her dog at the park. "It kind of intertwines everything together, and I like that."

Burwell says she's happy the previous panel was removed because she found it offensive, and she says she knew others were also offended by it.

Rochester artist Michael DeLuca's piece was among more than 30 submissions from artists to replace the panel. All the submissions had to feature a panther.

The group in charge of replacing the panel says they wanted a panther on the next panel 'because its historic use as a symbol of democracy among African Americans.'

"I gave it everything I had, and I really believed in the importance of the project," said DeLuca. "I feel very grateful and honored."

DeLuca says he has fond memories of riding the carousel as a child, though he never knew the racist panel was on the carousel until it became the center of outcry in 2016.

He says the carousel holds a special place in his heart. He says that, plus being able to replace a racist painting with a symbol of African-American pride, made this project extremely special for him.

"It’s a lot of deep, internal meaning," DeLuca said about the painting.

"And the colors I used reflect that as well, with the purples representing mystery and power, and the position of the cat, everything was taken into consideration to deliver the power, grace, and spirit of the animal."

The old panel now sits in a museum, serving as anti-racist teaching tool. The group replacing the panel says it wants to have the new panel ready before the carousel is fixed.

It's currently undergoing repairs, and is scheduled to open up in July.

DeLuca says he's anxious to get to work painting the new panel. He's hopeful the panel will teach a different side of history.

Others share his enthusiasm and hope about the new panel, and what it represents.

"I love the new one, it’s beautiful," said Burwell. "With all the hype going on- but even without the hype- the black panther is a symbol of peace and prosperity, and I like that."


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