Yesterday, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts sent a letter to the leadership of the University of Kansas, calling on the university to return an American flag exhibit to its original outdoor location. The flag — part of a series originally set to have been displayed through the end of July — was removed from an outdoor exhibit after competing gubernatorial candidates condemned its display.
Joining calls by FIRE, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and the ACLU of Kansas, Warhol Foundation President Joel Wachs writes:
In addition to its longstanding relationship with the National Coalition Against Censorship and Creative Time, which organized the Pledges of Allegiance series, the Foundation has also made substantial grants to the Spencer Museum of Art for its exhibition program and for its participation in our Regional Re-granting Initiative (along with Kansas City-based Charlotte Street Foundation). We respect the museum’s position as a prominent platform for artistic voices within a major research university, and appreciate its support of Meckseper’s work and the thoughtful and engaging discussions it has provoked. However, restoring the work to its original location is imperative and we would further suggest that it remain displayed through the fall semester so that students coming to campus can see and discuss it.
Artists play a unique role in our culture, igniting through their work difficult, but necessary, conversations that promote empathy and propel social change. These voices must not be silenced by those who find them threatening or distasteful.
FIRE’s Sarah McLaughlin also discussed the controversy in Artsy, placing it in the broader context of censorship of art on college campuses:
Artistic freedom protects high and low art alike; notions of “good taste” and artistic worthiness are the realm of the artist or curator, not the bureaucrat. But at a number of American universities, controversy has been acting as the curator, leading to the degradation of both freedom of speech and students’ ability to interact with challenging artwork.
Ask the University of Kansas to restore the exhibit