Sunday, May 07, 2006

Brooklyn College MFA Students Demand Show Be Re-opened


For press inquiries, please contact:
Marni Kotak

Brooklyn College MFA Students Demand Show Be Re-opened

Citing First Amendment Rights, Students Unify in Opposition to Provost Matthews’ Decision to Move Works to College Campus

NEW YORK (May 7, 2006) Citing First Amendment rights which provide for freedom of expression in a public space, the Brooklyn College MFA Students whose works have been locked up and censored by the NYC Parks Department since last Thursday, have just announced their unified decision to oppose Brooklyn College Provost Roberta S. Matthews’ decision that their works be moved to the Brooklyn College Campus.

The students release this official message:

The closing of the Brooklyn College MFA Thesis exhibition at the Brooklyn War Memorial constitutes an act of censorship on the part of the NYC Parks Department.

We were never made aware of any agreement between the NYC Parks Department and the Brooklyn College Administration regarding any restrictions on the nature of the content shown in student exhibitions in the space. Furthermore, any such contract would be unconstitutional.

The closing of the show violates our first amendment rights for freedom of expression in a public space, for which there are several precedents. Government should not be in a position to make decisions about what constitutes appropriate content in art.

The position of the artists is that the show must be re-opened in its current space by the NYC Parks Department with a disclaimer to the public posted at the entrance of the exhibition if necessary.

At this point there has been no offer of an acceptable alternative space for the show.

We are requesting that supporters petition the Brooklyn College Administration, the NYC Parks Department and all local and state public officials to reopen the Brooklyn College MFA Thesis Exhibition in the Brooklyn War Memorial in its entirety, in the name of the first amendment and free speech.

Alternatively, If the show will not be re-opened by the Parks Department, the artists request an alternative venue that is equal or better in location and square footage to the Brooklyn War Memorial, and the financial support of Brooklyn College in handling such a move to a new space. This is due to the nature of the site-specific installations that were created for this particular space.

Students will be meeting tomorrow morning with Brooklyn College Provost Roberta S. Matthews, and will be attempting to schedule meetings with President Christoph M. Kimmich and NYC Parks Commissioner, Adrian R. Benepe, in attempts to resolve the matter. The students are also awaiting a message from the Mayor of New York, Michael R. Bloomberg, in hopes they he will override the unilateral decision of Julius Spiegel, or at least help to resolve the situation. However, if necessary, the students are prepared to take legal action to ensure that their art work is exhibited.

The student show, mounted as a graduation requirement for the Master of Fine Arts Degree at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, was suddenly shut down at about 3:30PM on Thursday, May 4, 2006, by Brooklyn Borough Parks Commissioner, Julius Spiegel. This Saturday the students held a rally, with faculty and community members, in front of the Brooklyn War Memorial, chanting “Unlock the Art,” “Free Plan B” (the name of their thesis exhibition”, and “Free Speech Now.”

The artists in the exhibition include: Carla Aspenberg, Jill Auckenthaler, John Avelluto, Zoe Cohen, David Davron, Susan C. Dessel, Carl James Ferrero, Carrie Fucile, Pamela Gordon, Yejin Jun, Diane Kosup, Marni Kotak, Augusto Marin, Akiko Mori, Christopher Moss, Sarah Phillips, Megan Piontkowski and Tamas Veszi.

The exhibition was scheduled to be open through May 25th at the Brooklyn College Art Gallery at the Brooklyn War Memorial Building, Cadman Plaza, in downtown Brooklyn. For further information or to voice your support for the reopening of Plan B, visit


Blogger Jenny Walty said...

Yesterday I posted this press release on the home page of Open Ground. Today I sent the following email to Bloomberg and Yassky and encouraged all my friends to voice their opposition as well:

Please intervene to protect artists free speech in New York City!

I am deeply troubled that Parks Comissioner Benepe closed the Brooklyn College MFA thesis exhibition at the Brooklyn War Memorial to censor what he deemed inappropriate content.

These artists have been developing their voice and their work in one
of the city's great institutions for more than two years. The faculty, qualified to provide their artistic expertise, were surely aware of and approved of their artwork as having serious conceptual content and artistic merit.

These artists have put their time, money, and energy into being
artists in New York City but if the city doesn't support the disciplinary necessity of freedom of speech, will they stay and support New York's creative economy?

Please intervene with Comissioner Benepe today to prevent the chilling message that New York doesn't support artists. The Parks Department has threatened to move the show today, but these are not paintings which can be transported and easily rehung. Art exhibitions are complicated media installations and the artists will not cooperate to relocate the show.

Please take action to protect New York's artists and our great city's status as the art capital of the world.


What else can I do?

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenny - Would you want your kids to see this display? How about your Mom or grandmother? There are guidelines to everything. Most people do not want to see this stuff so you cannot display it in a Public Place.

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