An art show at New Hartford Central School has several parents and community members reeling over what they believe is a racist piece of artwork displayed at the district’s annual student art show. A handful of parents complained to WIBX questioning why the artwork was allowed to be displayed to the public, and sent a copy of the piece to our newsroom.

The piece of art in question is believed to have been created by a middle school student. It’s seemingly an advertising spoof depicting a fictional brand of cereal called "Monkey Premium Cereal" and an advertisement showing a photo of NBA Superstar Lebron James dunking a basketball. The message on the ad claimed that “you can jump high and dunk like Lebron James if you eat Monkey Premium cereal.”

Listener Submitted Photo
Listener Submitted Photo

The Issue

For decades, comparing African Americans to monkeys has been considered inappropriate and racist, according to Mary-Francis Winters, founder and CEO of The Winters Group.

It’s unclear at this time if the student intended the art piece to be racist, or if he or she created it innocently, unaware of the dark history of the comparison. It’s also unknown whether or a not a teacher approved the piece to be displayed at the art show. WIBX is withholding the names of the teacher and the student involved in the artwork.

Superintendent of New Hartford Schools Dr. Cosimo Tangorra Jr., says he is not prepared to comment on the incident at this time. He said he’s been investigating the matter since late Saturday afternoon, and he would speak with us once his investigation was completed. Tangorra said that at this time he doesn’t fully understand the circumstances surrounding the matter.


WIBX obtained the photo from a community member who wishes to remain anonymous. WIBX confirmed that the photo of the artwork was authentic, and was taken by a parent who attended the show.

Tangorra sat down with WIBX's Keeler Show on Thursday, May 9, to formally discuss the matter at hand and address the community about the unfortunate situation.

Read More: Cos Tangorra Answers Questions on Racist LeBron James Artwork

This local story comes at a time when the public’s sensitivity to potential bigotry in schools has been heightened because of the several weeks of anti-semitic protests that have led to more than 2,000 arrests on college campuses across the United States.

New Hartford’s district-wide art show has been an annual tradition in the high school gymnasium for several years and includes samples of artwork from all K-6 students, and all art students in grades levels 7-12.

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