Reinstate Artwork Censored by Kennesaw State University President
“Late yesterday, a Kennesaw State University official contacted Ruth Stanford to inform her of the university’s decision to offer to reinstate her installation A Walk in the Valley, with the provision that additional materials be on hand to provide more context for the work. Stanford’s installation, commissioned for the Zuckerman Museum’s inaugural exhibition, takes as its subject property once owned by pro-lynching author Corra Harris that was acquired by KSU in 2008.”
Artist Ruth Stanford’s artwork A Walk in the Valley has been removed from the grand opening exhibition at the new Zuckerman Museum of Art at Kennesaw State University in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, GA.
During a walk-through a day before opening of the exhibition “See Through Walls,” KSU President Daniel S. Papp objected to the artwork and demanded it to be removed, despite the fact that the museum’s curators had commissioned the artist to make the site-specific work.
The artwork shines a light on the legacy of Corra Harris, whose writings from 1899 promote lynching of African Americans. The writer’s estate donated her property to the university in 2009, which raised a stink among students and faculty.
An ad-hoc coalition of artists, curators, art writers, and gallerists gathered at the ribbon-cutting ceremony with signs, t-shirts, and flyers on Saturday, March 1st to protest the censorship by the over-reaching university administration, and to support the artist and museum staff.
We are calling for President Papp to reinstate the artwork to the museum, and to offer a public apology.
Dear President Daniel Papp,
As members of the metro Atlanta art community, we are dismayed and disappointed by the decision of Kennesaw State University President Daniel Papp to remove a commissioned artwork by Ruth Stanford from the inaugural exhibition of the university’s new Zuckerman Museum of Art, opening this evening, March 1 (VIP reception at 5:00 p.m., public opening at 6:30).
KSU is a state public institution with an educational mission that should promote dialogue about history and difficult subjects, not squelch First Amendment rights and artistic expression.
Stanford’s work eloquently and tactfully addresses a contentious time in Georgia’s history and KSU’s controversial acquisition of property once owned by author and lynching apologist Corra Harris. In her installation, Stanford explores the complexity of Harris’s views and literary works, which are both “poetic and beautiful,” as Stanford says, and a reflection of the time in which she lived.
The “celebratory” opening that President Papp purports to be protecting has already been ruined by his very action, which undermines the autonomy and curatorial integrity of the museum staff.
We respectfully request that the Zuckerman Museum be allowed to reinstall Stanford’s artwork and that President Papp issue an apology to the artist and art community.
Please consider signing this petition here.
For more background information around this case please see: