Confederate-flag art has drawn harsh critics
By Mark Hinson

During a lively and sometimes emotional board meeting Monday, the Mary Brogan Museum of Art & Science declined to add a "historical timeline about the Confederate flag" to be shown along with controversial Confederate-flag art by conceptual artist John Sims.

Sims’ artworks – which include a 13-foot-tall wooden gallows titled "The Proper Way to Hang A Confederate Flag" – went on view in the museum on Feb. 26 as part of the "AfroProvocations" exhibit. Two weeks later, Sons of Confederate Veterans commander Col. Robert Hurst sent a letter condemning the work and demanding its removal.

Brogan executive director Chucha Barber met with Hurst and was considering "extending a small olive branch" by adding a counter-exhibit documenting the six incarnations of the Confederate flag.

The board shot down the idea – at least for now.

"I don’t know if we’re obligated to do anything for Mr. Hurst," Brogan board member Ron Sachs said. "Frankly, I think we’ve done enough. . . . I think we’re becoming a tool for this guy and his organization."

"Leave (the exhibit) as it is," board member Bill Montford said. "Anything we do now it will look like, ‘They gave, they folded.’ You take one step back, you’re going to get your tail whipped."

"I can’t compromise on this issue – there’s no appeasement here," board member and Tallahassee Democrat executive editor Bob Gabordi said.

Barber told the board that since the controversy over "AfroProvocations" erupted, she has felt targeted and has received "a barrage of 1,000 e-mails and hundreds of phone calls." Some of them have been threatening to the point that Tallahassee police were consulted.

"Whatever you decide tonight, they will escalate their antagonism," Barber said.

When "The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag" and other flag artworks by Sims were shown at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania in September 2004, the exhibit was greeted with protests and death threats. The FBI stepped in and the college president was assigned a temporary bodyguard.

Barber said she was unaware of the Gettysburg firestorm when Sims’ work was selected for inclusion in "AfroProvocations."

"That’s a small fact I would’ve like to have had," Barber said.

"There’s some issue of negotiations happening that I’m not comfortable with," Sims said from his home in Sarasota. "She (Barber) has brought him (Hurst) into the curatorial process and it’s outrageous. It’s her way of appeasing him."

At Monday’s meeting, the board’s executive committee voted "to look at the issue further" and explore the possibility of including links or historical information on the museum’s Web site concerning the history of the flag.

"AfroProvocations" runs through June 3 and also features works by Mary Proctor, O.L. Samuels, Steven Bernard Jones, Sangoyemi Ogunsanya and Pat Ward Williams, who attended Monday’s meeting.

"Did you notice they weren’t talking about the art in there tonight?" Ward Williams said. "This whole thing has gotten away from being about the art and we just need to bring it back to the art."

"AfroProvocations" runs through June 3 at the Mary Brogan Museum of Art & Science on Kleman Plaza. It also features works by Mary Proctor, O.L. Samuels, Steven Bernard Jones, Sangoyemi Ogunsanya and Pat Ward Williams. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6 for adults, $3.50 for children, students, senior citizens and military personnel with valid IDs. The museum has also created a blog site where patrons can post comments about the "AfroProvocations" exhibit at Call 513-0700 for more information

Copyright ©2007 Tallahassee Democrat

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