MOCA meets with Yarborough over photo

Both sides agree to continue conversations about vitality of arts in Jacksonville


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville representatives met with City Council President Clay Yarborough and his assistant Friday to discuss the issue of Yarborough calling a photograph in a display pornographic.

The image is a nude picture of a pregnant woman on display in the museum's atrium.

Yarborough initially pushed to defund MOCA's $230,000 grant from the Cultural Council unless the photograph was taken down. That caused a backlash from people who felt he went too far.

Despite Yarborough's demands, Mayor Alvin Brown's office decided not to tamper with MOCA's funding, saying it would be a violation of the First Amendment.

MOCA said board chair Margaret Gellatly and director and chief curator Marcelle Polednik met with Yarborough and his assistant, BeLinda Peeples.

"The conversation was amicable, and the dialogue was open and forthright," a news release reads. "The MOCA representatives reiterated information regarding the standards to which all Museum exhibitions are always held."

MOCA said its representatives also explained why any compromise related to the current "Project Atrium: Angela Strassheim" exhibition was not possible, as any such measures would, effectively, censor the exhibition.

"As such, the issue impacts not just MOCA, but the established rights of all artists, all cultural institutions, and the public-not just in Jacksonville, but the world over," the news release reads. "A compromise such as removing, screening, or otherwise marking the image as anything other than an appropriate expression of artistic merit, would, as MOCA representatives explained, cripple the potential of all artists and the cultural institutions of our city, which would in turn cripple the potential of our city as a whole."

MOCA said it takes seriously its responsibility to uphold community and professional museum standards and inform the museum's decision-making process as it pertains to exhibitions and all educational endeavors.

"Rather than discuss a compromise of a matter already definitively settled by Mayor Alvin Brown's office and his counsel, MOCA representatives suggested that the focus should be on continued dialogue and the City Council president getting to know the cultural organizations of Jacksonville, their inimitable professional standards, and the work they do to benefit the community," the news release reads.

MOCA said its representatives and Yarborough agreed to continue the conversations about how the vitality of the arts helps shape the vitality of Jacksonville.

MOCA said its representatives concluded the meeting with the understanding that the matter is closed from further discussion.