JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There's no word from Jacksonville's mayor or the city's top lawyers on the City Council president's request to pull a $230,000 grant from the Museum of Contemporary Art over a photo of a naked, pregnant woman lying on a sofa.
Council President Clay Yarborough sent a letter to Mayor Alvin Brown on Tuesday objecting to one of the images by photographer Angela Strassheim displayed in MOCA's atrium. According to the museum, the series of photos that include the nude photo illustrate "transitional points in our lives -- particularly the precious, fleeting nature of childhood and adolescence."
In his letter to Brown's chief of staff, Yarborough wrote:
"Unless Mayor Brown supports this inappropriate, pornographic display, and accepts that anyone, including children can enter and see it, I insist that you immediately cause to be pulled all funding designated for MOCA for the current fiscal year or otherwise explain how this will be addressed within 24 hours."
The controversy became public on Thursday, but with City Hall closed on Thanksgiving and the day after, there was no quick response.
Monday, the mayor's office said that since this was a First Amendment issue, the issue was turned over to the General Counsel's Office. As of late afternoon, there was no response.
We went with Councilman Robin Lumb to MOCA -- almost across the street from City Hall -- when he went to see the photograph and how it was displayed.
"That this is the origin of the controversy -- the fact they receive (public) money," Lumb said. "In fact, a substantial subsidy from the city of Jacksonville."
The director of the city's Cultural Council -- the intermediary that provided MOCA funding -- calls the uproar over the photograph a good thing.
"I am relishing the bully-pulpit it's giving art and culture right now," said Tony Allegretti. "It's a big win for culture in the city. We are a world-class city of culture, and one thing I want to be clear about: We have a great city and I don't like anyone out there poor-mouthing Jacksonville and saying this is indicative of who we are, because I think it's a very, very small percentage."
But that percentage is speaking out. Councilman Bill Gulliford doesn't agree with Yarborough definition of the picture as pornographic, but he says both sides need to make some type of compromise. He said that the fact that the media is blurring the photo in its coverage is indicative that the picture could be a problem.
"That says there is some sensitivity there and some people find it offensive," Gulliford said. "So why not display it in a way where people can use their good judgment if they want to see the picture or not see the picture?"
Gulliford added he does not think that MOCA's funding should be pulled over the the photo, but, "in the future you sit down and make sure there is sensitivity on everybody's side."