At new KSU museum, protesters picket over censorship of art - CBS46 News

At new KSU museum, protesters picket over censorship of racially-linked display

Posted: Updated:
Piece of art removed, called "A Walk In The Valley" Piece of art removed, called "A Walk In The Valley"

Several people wore T-shirts and held "censored" signs at the grand opening of the Zuckerman Museum on Saturday night. The new museum at Kennesaw State University contains more than 7,000 pieces of art, but one of them was pulled just two days before the grand opening, inciting an uproar from art connoisseurs and supporters in the Atlanta area.

"We're here in protest of censorship of art," said Alan Avery. "It's my belief this piece was removed because it set a precedent of reflecting back on a history of Georgia which we're not necessarily proud of."

The piece in question is a display composed by Atlanta-area artist Ruth Stanford. Called "A Walk In The Valley," the collection and arrangement of items was commissioned for the grand opening of the museum.

University administrators pulled the piece Thursday, two days before the grand opening.

"It really was an exploration of people, history and place, and how those things intertwine to affect how we feel about particular sites," said Stanford. She said one of the features of the piece calls to attention the life and work of Corra Harris, a Georgia-born writer who attained fame in the early 20th century.

Her career is considered to have been launched largely by an article she wrote in 1899, advocating the practice of lynching. Harris' legacy has forever been linked with that work.

"The letter that launched her career was a really shockingly racist letter," said Stanford, who also said she believes the racial undertone is the reason her display was pulled at the last minute. Stanford said she never thought something like that would happen.

"It really angers me," said Avery, standing with several protesters. "I'd hoped that this would be a great institution for the state of Georgia, and now we have this censorship and this pulling of art work to hide this history that we don't want to reflect on. It (the museum) now becomes irrelevant. The institution is unimportant at this point."

"It's really important to make sure we hear a lot of voices," said Dr. Catherine Lewis, the Executive Director of Museums, Archives and Rare Books at KSU. She said she welcomed the protest in front of the main entrance.

"I think it's a great addition to the evening," she said. "I'm excited about the possibility that we'll be able to revisit this issue."

She declined to say exactly why the piece was pulled, but did say the issue was not a closed case, leaving room for the chance the art could be displayed at a later time.

Copyright 2014 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.