By Bill Cotterell
news-press.com Tallahassee Bureau
Originally posted on March 16, 2007
TALLAHASSEE — An art exhibit in the shadow of Florida’s Capitol has started a skirmish with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science plans to make an announcement today of its decision on a request by the Civil War historical association for removal of all or parts of an exhibit called "The proper way to hang a Confederate flag." Bob Hurst, head of the SCV chapter in Tallahassee, said the exhibit shows a Confederate battle flag draped over a noose.
In a letter to the museum’s director, Hurst said the exhibit violates two state laws that forbid desecration of the flag. Although the museum board accepted the exhibit as a way of prompting dialog among viewers, Hurst said it was a form of "hate speech" directed at descendants of Southern soldiers and others who promote education about the Confederacy, maintain Southern graves and markers and support other causes long associated with Dixie history.
"Since there are tens of thousands of us here in this area who are descended from those brave men and honor their memory, the Brogan certainly runs the risk of permanently alienating a large part of the local population," Brogan wrote. "I certainly hope it is not your goal to alienate."
Chucha Barber, executive director of the museum, said the museum staff discussed the exhibit with John Sims, one of six black artists featured in an exhibition known as "AfroProvocations." Barber said Sims recorded an explanation that is accessible by an audio box next to his exhibit.
"I hope this object promotes a real self-discussion about southern heritage, about visual terrorism, about the currency of art, to engage in an important discussion, to stimulate the African-American community to think about things and how to deal with things that might be painful," Sims explained. "I invite the pro-Southern heritage community not to look at this as a harmful or hateful act but as an emotional release, an intellectual imagination that allows us to move beyond a painful past to create a future."
Hurst said it was offensive to the Sons of Confederate Veterans to have the battle flag associated with racism or violence. He said the Sims piece was an "objectionable display of political art."