ACLU of Arkansas Acts to Restore Controversial Artwork to University Exhibit

November 5, 1999 12:00 am

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LITTLE ROCK, AR — Resolving a classic First Amendment conflict, the ACLU of Arkansas announced today that state university officials have restored two pieces of censored artwork to a local exhibition at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

The works in question, by artist Dennis Scogin, had been removed because one of the pieces seemed to mock university Chancellor Fred Taylor. Entitled “Fred Wine – Good the Last Drop!”, the work depicts the chancellor sitting comfortably inside a wine bottle labeled “The Kermit Ross Bottling Company.” Mr. Moss is a former University professor and frequent public critic of Taylor’s.

“It’s pure political satire protected by the First Amendment,” said Rita Sklar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “This was a clear case of squelching free speech.”

The pieces were accepted and used in advertising for the exhibit and then pulled because of the “Fred Wine” piece’s content. Scogin said he meant to show Chancellor Taylor’s perseverance in spite of his long-running feud with Moss.

“Chancellor Taylor is sitting there as if he wasn’t aware Kermit has him bottled up,” Scogin said. But the bottle is uncorked, he added, “so he’s not trapped in there.” Scogin said he then contacted the ACLU because he felt that his rights had been violated.

After reviewing the artworks, the ACLU contacted an attorney in the University of Arkansas general counsel’s office, and the pieces were restored to the exhibit.

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