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Yarborough gives statement on MOCA issue

Councilman disappointed picture not removed, says it's time to move on

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After meeting with Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville representatives Friday regarding a controversial photo in a display that has sparked much talk, City Council President Clay Yarborough issued a statement Monday about the issue.

"I apologized to (MOCA) Director (Marcelle) Polednik for not contacting her initially," Yarborough said. "I also learned the director and board are responsible for content and have the ability to safeguard children from mature material without stifling expression, so I asked whether anything would be done to protect children exposed to a large photograph of a naked woman without having to pay admission when they enter the taxpayer-owned, public building.

"Ironically, after volunteering that her child has never seen a television and when they go into private homes where a television is on, she requests it be turned off, Director Polednik's exact response was, 'Regrettably, no.' She and Board Chair (Margaret) Gellatly expressed it would reflect poorly on them if they were willing to compromise. Though I unwaveringly believe this weakens Jacksonville's moral climate and hope the board will, at-minimum, consider a disclaimer similar to what is used in other public forums, there are other important issues that we must move on to address."

Last month, Yarborough called a nude picture of a pregnant woman on display in the museum's atrium pornographic.

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 issued a news release Friday on the meeting with Yarborough, saying, "The conversation was amicable, and the dialogue was open and forthright."

MOCA said its representatives 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 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.