Of­fi­cials re­solve dis­pute about stu­dent art ex­hibit

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Cassa Niedring­haus

BOUL­DER» Univer­sity of Colorado of­fi­cials have come to a res­o­lu­tion with the stu­dent who said they cen­sored his art­work when they de­manded that he move it out of a prom­i­nent dis­play in the Vis­ual Arts Com­plex lobby.

Kae­len Wil­liams, a se­nior seek­ing a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in fine arts, cre­ated 22 paint­ings and 15 small draw­ings for an ex­hibit ti­tled “Less Than Noth­ing” but drew com­plaints from stu­dents about nu­mer­ous pieces, in­clud­ing one that dis­played a noose.

Wil­liams was in­formed by the Art and Art His­tory Depart­ment that his ex­hibit could re­main in the lobby for its open­ing last week, but he would need to move it to a base­ment room over the week­end. He cre­ated an on­line pe­ti­tion that gar­nered more than 200 sig­na­tures, protested the de­ci­sion and gained sup­port from an­ti­cen­sor­ship or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Coali­tion Against Cen­sor­ship.

CU an­nounced Wed­nes­day night in a news re­lease that the depart­ment and Wil­liams had come to an agree­ment that Wil­liams’ art­work will re­main in its cur­rent lo­ca­tion through Sun­day; he will work with a fac­ulty mem­ber to cre­ate a mu­ral to be dis­played in the lobby next se­mes­ter; and fac­ulty and stu­dents will plan a sym­po­sium to dis­cuss art, free ex­pres­sion and aca­demic free­dom.

“I think it’s a re­ally good so­lu­tion be­cause we’re ad­dress­ing the is­sue, but we’re do­ing it in a col­lab­o­ra­tive and con­struc­tive way rather than hav­ing a fight or a court case or some­thing, which I don’t think any­body is re­ally in­ter­ested in,” Wil­liams said.

As for the sym­po­sium, he said: “We just want to have some kind of dis­cus­sion event, so we can talk about these kinds of is­sues of speech and im­agery, and how do you bal­ance free speech and sen­si­tiv­ity?”

Stu­dents com­plained about sev­eral im­ages in Wil­liams’ works, in­clud­ing a noose, hooded fig­ures and sa­tanic im­ages, but Wil­liams and cu­ra­tor Ken­dall Go­duto said they were un­der the im­pres­sion that the noose was the pri­mary point of con­cern for stu­dents. They said they had not con­sid­ered how the im­age, which they dis­played on pro­mo­tional posters and in the ex­hibit, might af­fect black stu­dents in par­tic­u­lar.

Jeremy Pa­passo, Daily Cam­era

Univer­sity of Colorado se­nior Kae­len Wil­liams holds a piece of his art­work for his gallery ex­hibit “Less Than Noth­ing” on Mon­day in a base­ment stu­dio space in­side the Vis­ual Arts Com­plex on cam­pus in Boul­der.

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