In 2014, James Franco returned to his alma mater to hang over 20 large paintings around Palo Alto High School's campus, as well as paint two murals. Since then, one mural has been replaced by student artwork while the paintings have been largely taken down after they were removed last summer during a renovation of the building. Some of the paintings he donated to the school are still on display. The school did not say whether the last mural was removed directly as a result of the numerous sexual misconduct allegations against Franco.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Palo Alto Unified School District Interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks said that while the school and the district appreciated Franco's donation, they always believed it was intended to be temporary. "District staff recently considered the best interests of our students in the light of our educational mission, and decided to remove and return the remaining artwork." According to Hendricks, the mural will be replaced by one conceptualized by the school's Latinos Unidos group. "Their idea was to celebrate the rich cultural backgrounds and diversity on our campus. We are excited that they came up with this idea, and look forward to helping them with the project," she added.
"When I was a teenager, it seemed like I felt so much; everything seemed so important and there was so much pressure of all kinds and I was experiencing certain things for the first time. And so, the paintings, for me at least, captured that," Franco said to the school newspaper at the time.
Shortly after the 2018 Golden Globes ceremony, accusations of sexual misconduct against Franco began to emerge. In a Los Angeles Times story, several women accused the actor of sexually exploitative behavior such as well as coercing a date to perform oral sex on him. One woman said that Franco kicked her off a shoot when she refused to go topless for an unscripted scene in his film. As a result, the actor has faced a backlash from the media and the entertainment industry, including being removed from the cover of Vanity Fair.
Kimberly Diorto, Palo Alto High School's principal, explained her reasoning for taking down the mural to the school's newspaper. "I made the decision we’ll take down the mural on the [student center] because I think that’s the one that’s most visible to the outside community," Diorto explained before adding, "These are still allegations. I can’t even say it [the decision to replace the mural] is based on fact because he’s denied those allegations and hasn’t been charged with a crime."
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