The March 1 opening of the Zuckerman Museum of Art at Kennesaw State University was as “celebratory” as it could be in light of the censoring of the inaugural exhibition by KSU President Daniel Papp, a rotating group of about 20 protestors, and a beefed-up police presence. The event drew 1,700 visitors, exceeding expectations and reinforcing the adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
The protestors held signs, passed out flyers, and wore T-shirts with an image of Ruth Stanford’s work that was removed from the show with the word “censored” in red beneath it. Numerous visitors to the museum wore signs on their backs that were provided by the protestors. The gesture ensured that Papp’s action would not go unnoticed, even as artists and protestors attended the opening in support of the exhibiting artists and museum staff. Not only were the demonstrators noticed, KSU’s Museums, Archives & Rare Books Division has requested protest materials for its archive.
Also remarkable for some observers were the number of prominent Atlanta art figures who skirted the protest. While everyone wanted to be present to support the artists in the exhibition, the protestors were arguably supporting all artists, including those who might one day face the same form of censorship.
According to a source close to the administration, Monday was filled with meetings and discussions about the decision and a possible course of action.
“See Through Walls” features works by 15 artists spread across two galleries, including several wall drawings and site-specific installations. Stanford’s work had been prominently placed near the entrance of a gallery. The museum staff was told they couldn’t leave the spot empty after removing her work, so a piece by Casey McGuire addressing the housing crisis took its place.
Artist Cheryl Goldsleger showed her disapproval of Papp’s action by requesting her paintings be turned toward the wall, but when that proved unfeasible she had them turned upside down and propped up against the wall.
BURNAWAY and Creative Loafing first broke the story on February 28, which has since gone viral on Facebook and been picked up by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, Artnet News, Artinfo.com, the Huffington Post, Associated Press, ArtLeaks, and other outlets.
The 2014 Walthall Fellows, whose exhibition is slated to follow “See Through Walls,” were well represented at the protest, among them Christopher Chambers, who coordinated the rush printing of T-shirts with Fallen Arrows. Because several of the other artists’ works deal with race, gender, and sexuality, the group is particularly concerned with the outcome. Chris Appleton, director of WonderRoot, which administers the Walthall fellowship, has a series of meetings planned with Zuckerman staff.