Sunday, May 07, 2006

In Brooklyn, Art Students Rally Against Show Closing (NY Times)

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
The New York Times

May 7, 2006 Sunday
Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section 1; Column 6; Metropolitan Desk; Pg. 38

LENGTH: 534 words

HEADLINE: In Brooklyn, Art Students Rally Against Show Closing



Dozens of art students gathered outside the locked doors of a Brooklyn war memorial yesterday to protest the closing of a show of their work, saying that their college had abandoned them and that they might file a lawsuit against the city.

On Thursday, the Brooklyn parks commissioner ordered the city-owned building, near the Brooklyn Bridge, closed and the locks changed after visiting the exhibition and receiving several complaints about it.

The show, ''Plan B,'' featured the thesis work of students in Brooklyn College's master of fine arts program, many of whom turned out yesterday to the small but high-spirited rally outside the building, where they chanted, ''Free Plan B.''

''We're interested in putting political and legal pressure on the Parks Department, on the City Council, on the mayor,'' said Zoe Cohen, 28, president of the graduate art student union at the college.

But Warner Johnston, a spokesman for the parks commissioner, Julius Spiegel, said the exhibit violated the agreement that has allowed Brooklyn College students to use the memorial as a gallery so long as the art was appropriate for families.

''To the best of our knowledge, with the exception of the students, no public constituent has called the Parks Department to complain about the closing of the exhibit,'' Mr. Johnston said.

Norman Siegel, a lawyer and the former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, joined the rally, saying that the closing was ''quintessential censorship'' and that he would represent the students.

Mr. Siegel, who is also a graduate of Brooklyn College, described the dispute as the ''Brooklyn Museum of Art Jr.,'' a reference to former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's attempt to cut off city funding to the Brooklyn Art Museum in 1999 after it showed a painting of the Virgin Mary that incorporated elephant dung.

Yesterday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's press office referred calls to the Parks Department.

Augusto Marin, whose artwork -- which included a plaster cast of his hand holding his penis -- was apparently among those deemed inappropriate, brought his children David, 8, and Juliette, 5.

Mr. Marin was asked if he would take his children to the exhibit. ''Under supervision, under the guidance of a responsible adult, absolutely,'' he said.

Michael Mallory, the chairman of Brooklyn College's art department, said that in his early conversations with the administration on Friday, college officials seemed inclined to back the students.

''By the afternoon, that had changed,'' he said. ''It was clear to me that it was a done deal.''

The college's provost, Roberta S. Matthews, issued a statement on Friday saying that the college would move the show to a campus location.

Colleen Roche, a spokeswoman for Brooklyn College, would only say that school officials supported the students' artistic freedoms.

Xico Greenwald, 28, a first-year M.F.A. student, came to the protest from his studio. He said there was a potential silver lining.

''There's no better way to bequeath street cred to a bunch of people who are about to enter the art world,'' he mused, ''than to deem their work officially avant-garde by saying it's too risque for the public.''


LOAD-DATE: May 7, 2006


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