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The Art of Censoring

By Sandra Knispel | Published 05 Oct 2011 08:08am | comments

The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council may not receive funds this year from Lafayette County. The Board of Supervisors voted on Monday to withhold funding because of a controversial art show. MPB’s Sandra Knispel has more from Oxford.

Last week, an art show that involved nudity moved to a private tent after city leaders and others had complained when the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council had wanted to host the exhibit. While the show by local artist Katherine Rhodes Fields titled “Scratch and Sniff” lasted for only three hours, its lingering effects has some Oxonians scratch their heads in disbelief.

“They were concerned that public monies were being used for art that they did not deem fit the community standard and I don’t think they had all the information that the show was held at a private location," says Wayne Andrews.

Andrews, the director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, was shocked when he heard that the County Supervisors had voted on Monday 3 to 2 not to approve $15,000 dollars in annual appropriations.

“We do use their funds to focus on community-based programs that are available and accessible to everyone," Andrews explains.

Laura Cole, who works for a local, alternative publishing company, strongly disagrees with the supervisors’ decision.

“It’s short-sighted and it’s all about censorship. There are so many things that the [Yoknapatawpha Arts] council – things that they do for the community. And to take away $15,000 from Oxford, from the arts, it really is going to have an impact," Cole says. "But it’s also gotten everybody excited about fighting against it.

One of the three supervisors who voted to cutfunding has since had a change of heart. Robert Blackmon told the arts council and MPB that he decided to place the funding issue back on the agenda. A decision that Lafayette
County administratorJoseph Johnson confirms:

“It was a supervisor that just called and said that he’d been given some new information and wanted to bring it up for re-discussion. I’ve been requested to put that item back on the agenda for reconsideration… first Monday in November.”

The two other county supervisors, Lloyd Oliphant and Ray Sockwell Jr. did not return MPB’s repeated phone calls. In a prior interview with the Oxford Eagle Sockwell called the art show – quote – “trash” based on what he had heard about it. Again YAC director Wayne Andrews:

 “Could funding be pulled if someone does not like anything… if we do a Tennessee Williams play? It makes you worry about the programming that you’re doing in the long term when we think we’re offering something diverse and for everyone and try to enrich the community.” 

All it takes for the funding to be released is for one supervisor to change his vote at the November meeting. But Andrews says he won’t relax until that vote is in. Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Oxford. 

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