N.J. students' art depicting police brutality sets off controversy
The artists attached statements with their thoughts to the silkscreens.
by Jessica Remo ---- May 15, 2015 ---- NJ Advance Media for NJ
WESTFIELD — Artwork depicting scenes of police brutality displayed in a Westfield High School art show has set off a firestorm of comments from police supporters who have called the images "a gross misrepresentation," "ignorant" and "one-sided."
The artwork depicts images of officers with guns drawn, a target on a silhouette with his hands up, a bloodied body stabbed by a police shield and other scenes on a poster board that reads "Law Enforcement - Police Brutality." The silkscreens were part of an annual project where students depict their takes on controversial topics, according to a student.
"We submitted several different topics of our choice and finally narrowed them down to three - Law Enforcement- Police Brutality, Modern Technology Advances and Gender Equality," said student Kayla McMillan. "The students were allowed to choose either side of the arguments and were told they would not be in trouble for their own opinions."
The images went viral after commenters took the the school's Facebook review page.
Laurie Maloney, who was born in Westfield and is a retired Woodbridge police officer, said she heard about the controversy all the way in Texas via Facebook.
"It really incensed me that this was so one-sided," she told NJ Advance Media. "I'm all for the First Amendment, believe me. I'm not defending any police officers who are bad, but you can't lump 900,000 people that work for law enforcement in the same category. What's even more frightening is they brought grammar school children through this show. When I was young, we were told the police were good and if you had problem to go to the police. Showing these pictures to kids could cause them to be afraid of police, and I think that's wrong."
Both Maloney, McMillan, and dozens of others voiced their thoughts in support of and against the art in the comments on the school's Facebook review page.
"After all, art is expression, whether one agrees or disagrees with it," McMillan told NJ Advance Media. "Unfortunately, some students had graphic images to display their opinions, and apparently some adults disagree with those images. Which is fine, except they're all handling it very immaturely. I simply commented to explain the project to them. To make them realize our teacher isn't forcing us to think this way, that's just how those kids felt."
The controversy over the artwork also made Fox News last night.
Westfield Board of Education member Brendan Galligan said he had mixed feelings about the artwork.
"On one hand, art is supposed to provoke discussion, and the display has clearly done so. On the other, I firmly believe that the schools are charged with helping students become productive, respectful members of society," Galligan said. "That includes fostering a working relationship between students and law enforcement officers. I believe the display to be in bad taste, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it, or something similar, should ever be banned in the future. That's a slippery slope for government (even the local school board) to go down. We need to work with our students, to change the perception that the police are the enemy."
Westfield Superintendent Margaret Dolan issued a statement after the images went viral:
I have worked closely with law enforcement for over 20 years and have the utmost respect for the men and women who put themselves on the line each day to keep our communities safe. Our schools support and respect our police department and law enforcement officers. We work cooperatively on a daily basis with the police department and will continue to do so. Our 2 ½ day district art show, which featured hundreds of pieces of artwork created by students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, is now closed. The art project in question included drawings and captions depicting different viewpoints on a current controversial issue which was chosen by a small group of students. The teacher was attempting to encourage the students to look at more than one side of an issue. One student, for example, had drawn a poster he had seen online during the unrest in another state. The student then wrote his observation that people often rush to judgment before hearing what the real story is.
I am sorry that information that has been passed along via social media and elsewhere has not told the entire story and has led some to believe that we do not respect law enforcement. We do, and we are teaching our students to do the same.
Westfield Superintendent Issues Statement on Controversial Art Exhibit
An art exhibit at Westfield High School depicted images of guns being aimed at fleeing figures and a man stabbed by a police badge.
by NICHOLAS CARDOSO --- Patch
A recent art exhibit created by several students at Westfield High School has drawn ire from the community and from police officers for depicting police brutality.
The exhibit was on display at a school district-wide art show at the Westfield High School gymnasium, from May 12 to May 14. The exhibit was titled “Law Enforcement - Police Brutality” and contained images of guns being pointed at unarmed and fleeing figures, and an image of a man stabbed in the back by a police badge, according to a report from TAPinto.net.
Dr. Margaret Dolan, Superintendent of Westfield Public Schools, issued a statement Friday regarding the controversial art exhibit at the recent district-wide art show earlier this week.
“I have worked closely with law enforcement for over 20 years and have the utmost respect for the men and women who put themselves on the line each day to keep our communities safe” Dolan said in the statement. “Our schools support and respect our police department and law enforcement officers. Our schools and police department work cooperatively daily and will continue to do so.”
The two and a half day art show featured hundreds of pieces of artwork from students across the Westfield Public School district.
“The art project in question included drawings and captions depicting different viewpoints on a current controversial issue which was chosen by a small group of students,” Dolan said in the statement. “The teacher was attempting to encourage the students to look at more than one side of an issue.”
The superintendent said one student drew a poster he had seen during “unrest” in another state and then wrote an observation that people “often rush to judgement before hearing what the real story is.”
Dolan continued, “I am sorry that information that has been passed along via social media and elsewhere has not told the entire story and has led some to believe that we do not respect law enforcement. We do, and we are teaching our students to do the same.”
The art exhibit has drawn significant criticism from the community and from police officers, many of which have flocked to the review section of a Facebook page about Westfield High School to comment on the exhibit.
“Blatant disregard for teaching morals and right and wrong of your own bylaws,” wrote one person commenting on the school’s Facebook page. “Should be sickened to allow such non sense (sic) to be taught to youth. To be entrusted (with) the minds of our future youth. Sadly common sense is not so common. I guess when you can literally buy an education and teach anymore this is expected.”
High School Student For
Police Brutality Art
An art exhibit created by several Westfield, New Jersey students and displayed at a recent district-wide art show is drawing criticism from police officers. The display, titled “Law Enforcement — Police Brutality,” includes images of a man stabbed in the back by a badge and several of guns aimed at unarmed figures.
Artists’ statements are included below each piece.
“I am generally opposed to all forms of government control, and with the common occurrence of slaughtering innocents on the high-rise this was my prime reason to protest,” wrote one student.
Below the image of a bloody figure stabbed by a police badge, a student wrote, “The message that I am trying to convey is how some police officers have spilled the blood of many innocent people.”
According to one source, officers around the world are sharing photos of the display on social media and encouraging each other to email complaints to Superintendent Margaret Dolan, and hundreds have responded.
Some have posted their thoughts about the exhibit in the review section of a Facebook pageabout WHS.
“Disgusting that this school allows projects depicting false police brutality. Should be ashamed of yourself,” wrote one user whose profile photo is a police badge.
Another Facebook user wrote, “Disgusted with your prejudicial so-called display of art that promotes violence by labeling police as brutalists. Funny that all school teachers aren’t called sex offenders because of an occasional inappropriate relationship with students. Treat law enforcement the same way!”
The exhibit is part of the district’s annual art show, which was open to the public at Westfield High School from May 12 to May 14 at 2 p.m. It was part of a sampling of hundreds of works of art created by students representing all 10 Westfield public schools and grades ranging from kindergarten through 12thgrade.
Fox’s Eric Bolling Supports Free Speech to Mock Islam but Not to Criticize Police
by Andrew Kirell May 14th, 2015 --- Media
Shorter Eric Bolling: Free speech for me, but not for thee.
On Thursday’s edition of The Five, the Fox News host went after a student art exhibit at Westfield High School called “Law Enforcement — Police Brutality,” which features drawings like this one:
Bolling told viewers that the display was sent to him by a cop buddy of his, who informed him that “the law enforcement community across the country is outraged at this.”
As Mediaite readers may recall, in the aftermath of two gunmen attempting to kill people at a “Draw Muhammad” contest in Garland, Texas, Bolling was rightfully unequivocal in his support of free speech.
So how did Bolling react to this display by young students?
“I get the idea of free speech but…”
Oh lord, here we go.
“…hey, teachers at Westfield would you put up an art exhibit showing teachers abusing students? I don’t think you’d do it.”
Yes, because teachers are the arm of the state, regularly using violent force against citizens, sometimes in excessive or unjustified ways.
“I’d like to see that thing taken down,” the Fox host concluded. Kimberly Guilfoyle agreed. These drawings offended police officers — quelle horreur — and so it must be stamped out.
Apparently, according to people like Bolling, free speech rights are determined by whomever the speech offends.
How Arts and Cultural Strategies Create, Reinforce, and Enhance Sense of Place
"Arts and culture strategies help to reveal and enhance the underlying identity — the unique meaning, value, and character — of the physical and social form of a community. This identity is reflected through the community's character or sense of place. A community's sense of place is not a static concept; rather, it evolves and develops over time, reflecting the spectrum of social values within and around the community.
In this way, the community character of a city, county, town, or neighborhood can be seen as a story or narrative of a place...
Awareness of community identity and character is strengthened by the consideration of all community interests in decision- making processes; the integration of arts and cultural resources with civic visioning programs; and the balancing of the inherent conflicting nature of past, present, and future social values."
The American Planning Association
Art and culture come from within the individual and from within the community.
The story of the art exhibit even garnered attention from media outlets, including Fox News Channel and Fox News’ Eric Bolling, who spoke about the exhibit on his Twitter account, and the story was also picked up by Mediaite.com
here's how it has been in past years...
the high school mentality has expanded to include more than just Westfield...
instead of ceramics and ornamental masks, this year it is 'police brutality' as seen and displayed in the larger community...
here's the announcement for the show...
this year more publicity than ever before...
the students are displaying their awareness of the community...
May 12-14, open to public
By Suburban News ---- April 29, 2015
The public is invited to attend the 31st annual Westfield Public School District's Art Show, which will be held in the Westfield High School varsity gymnasium from May 12-14. Hundreds of visitors attend annually including these two students who admired ornamental masks displayed in last year's show. (courtesy photo)Suburban News
The public is invited to attend the 31st annual Westfield Public School District's Art Show, which will be held in the Westfield High School varsity gymnasium from May 12-14. A sampling of hundreds of artwork created by students representing all 10 public schools and grades ranging from kindergarten through twelfth will be on display at the annual show.
On Tuesday, May 12, and Wednesday, May 13, the artwork can be viewed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and in the evening from 7:30-9 p.m. Visitors are also welcomed on Thursday, May 14, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Graphic art, sculptures, ceramics, charcoal and pencil drawings, watercolors, fabric arts, painted furniture and other work of Westfield Public School students will be exhibited.
Linda King, Supervisor of Fine Arts in the Westfield Public Schools, noted that the annual exhibit is "an outstanding cultural event in this community. The Art Show is a wonderful opportunity to exhibit hundreds of various art media created by our talented students under the direction of dedicated art educators."
everyone's beginning to notice...