Community Conversation

Thank you to everyone who participated in last Sunday’s Seminar on Censorship. Seeing people openly discuss issues of censorship, both in the auditorium and in the galleries, was quite exciting. The intention of Sunday’s event was to encourage informed discussion and create a safe space for community dialogue and debate – To initiate a discussion aground these issues that would continue beyond the walls of the museum. Thanks to the eloquence and personal contributions of the afternoon’s moderators, panelists, discussion group leaders, and attendees, I think it did just that.

Censorship is a big topic, and there was no way we could have fit it into one afternoon of discussion. We look forward to continuing these discussions and to helping create more opportunities for public dialogue. Read more about the discussion here.

During the discussion attendees broke out into several smaller discussion groups to generate topics and questions for the panelists. We we’re not able to discuss all of them at one time — and we’d love to hear from you (we’re happy to post responses here – send to So, inspired by Wynne Greenwood’s excellent suggestion, at Sunday’s close, of listing off the remaining questions to keep the conversation going on the way out, I would love to list a few of the audience generated topics/questions here on Hankblog to continue the discussion.

“How can we participate in & foster conversation around controversy & art to help prevent the  censoring of the art itself?”

” It seems that we should create discomfort in order to bring broader perspective? Is this positive?”

“Should a museum reflect the systems of oppression found in the communities they are situated in?”

How can we find a way to keep the Smithsonian engaged in this conversation?”

“What is the responsibility of arts organizations to artists facing issues of censorship?”

“What are some resources artists can refer to when faced with censorship?

“What are the techniques institutions can use to combat these issues?

” We have talked about institutional responsibility to the public and other responsibilities. Does the artist have a responsibility to their community?”

“I am curious as to what extent the person from which funding comes from effects the content of a museum’s collection or exhibitions.”

“The action of one human being has affected us all. I would like to pursue this discussion rather than the supposition that we are beginning a tidal wave of censorship. Can discussion = prevention?”

” Manufactured outrage – there SHOULD BE an emotional response. Why would we cow to it?”

“Isn’t this example of censorship just homophobia?”

“Where/how do museum staff make decisions about whether or not a work is offensive? What makes a work offensive vs shocking ( but non-malicious)? Do they examine intent?”

” What IS censorship? Is it more dangerous to self-censor? When we discuss issues like these we must be willing to enter into a respectful dialogue and ask ourselves, what is the best interest of the community partaking in this discussion?”

” What are the sacred cows, and why are they sacred?”

” What about the case at LA’s MOCA – the white washing of a commissioned work by a graffiti artist opposite a WWII vet center? What should MOCA have done?

“What is the institutional role and responsibility in making connections between systems of oppression and discrimination?”

” Is controversy education?

“Are we moving towards an overly safe society?”

For more articles on this subject or to find out more about the recent controversy at the National Gallery visit For more information on censorship and to find out more about THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION visit their website at

If you have feedback regarding Sunday’s event, or if you have ideas for future discussions please feel free to contact us, we would love to hear from you.

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