Kennesaw State University has agreed to restore an art installation that officials ordered removed from its art museum last month. The work dealt with the the homestead of Corra Harris (1869-1935), an author who gained unusual prominence in her era for a female writer -- and whose career took off when she penned a piece widely viewed as a apology for lynching, full of racist stereotypes. The homestead is controversial at Kennesaw because the university accepted it as a gift to preserve in 2009 -- over the objections of some faculty members. University administrators ordered the installation about Harris removed from an exhibit that was celebrating the opening of a new art museum on campus -- and that decision has been denounced as censorship by many artists and others.
A statement from the university said that the exhibit will have explanatory information, and that the university's leaders "reaffirm the administration’s full support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. Our intention is to use this entire experience as a learning and engagement opportunity for all of our stakeholders." The university statement also included a statement from Ruth Stanford, the artist and an associate professor at Georgia State University, saying that she agreed with the decision to restore the installation.
Via email, Stanford was more critical of the university. "I am happy that my work is going back in the show so that viewers can see it and form their own opinions. However, despite my best efforts I feel that KSU largely continues to control the conversation. The conversation should be about censorship, and KSU does not want to talk about that," she said.
Also via email, the university responded to Stanford, and said that the university has in fact communicated about all issues that have been raised. "We have openly communicated the university administration's perspective and articulated the rationale for the action that was taken through three different media statements. We have responded to each and every individual media inquiry that we have received since this issue first developed. Members of the museum staff also have remained in frequent and consistent communication with the artist to ensure that the line of communication has remained open," the statement said.
"Finally, campus officials have directed that the related programming that the university has pledged to conduct will address all aspects of this controversy -- beginning with the acceptance of the gift and including the present controversy."