Sex is Art (exhibition)

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Date: 1997

Region: North America

Subject: Explicit Sexuality, Language, Nudity

Medium: Painting, Photography, Performance Art


Artist: Various artists taking part in the Sex is Art exhibit in Anville, PA.

Confronting Bodies: Al Yingst, the Chairman of the Township Board of Commissioners in Anville, PA; various town officials in Anville, Pa.

Dates of Action: August-September, 1997

Location: Anville, Pennsylvania

Description of Artwork: The artwork intended to be exhibited in the Sex is Art show in Anville, PA varied. Approximately 30 artists representing 150-200 pieces of work including paintings, drawings, mixed-media, photography and sculpture as well as about a dozen performance artists presenting music and poetry pieces were expected to show their work at the Sex is Art exhibit. Although sex was the theme of the show it was not expected that any of the exhibited art would be sexually graphic and the photographers in particular had agreed not to depict sex acts.

The Incident: A group of predominantly local artists in Pennsylvania Dutch country organized a group exhibit titled Sex is Art and rented the Old Anville Fire Hall in Anville, PA. (near Lebanon Valley College) for the weekend of September 4-5, 1997. This was the third consecutive year these artists had come together to display their work although they had not previously used the Fire Hall. On Wednesday, August 27, 1997, Scott Church, the organizer of the exhibition, was contacted by the Anville Fire Co., which manages the Fire Hall, and told that they were considering canceling the exhibit and inviting him and the other organizers to a meeting on August 28 to discuss the situation. It seems that a post for the exhibition reached Al Yingst, the Chairman of the Township Board of Commissioners, who believed that the exhibition would violate community standards of decency and perhaps involve live sex acts (which it would not). The post in question did not picture any of the art to be exhibited. Yingst called the fire company and objected to the exhibit. On August 28 the fire company and artists met to discuss the exhibit; in the meeting, the fire company agreed to honor the rental contract and both sides agreed that the fire company could post a disclaimer at the entrance stating that they did not endorse or sponsor the exhibition, and that the exhibit organizers would post a warning that material inside could be offensive, ensure that no works were visible from the outside and deny admission to those under 18 not accompanied by a parent.

Results of Incident: Despite the revised conditions Commissioner Yingst threatened to invoke the town's legal authority to stop the show. Yingst's continuing political pressure led the firefighters to limit the exhibition to one and a half hours a day, rather than the whole weekend as specified in the contract. The show was canceled as a result. In March of 1998, nearly a year after Sex is Art was shut down by Anville, PA. officials, the New Lebanon Valley College in PA. opened a week-long exhibit of banned artworks including many pieces from the censored Sex is Art exhibition.

Source: National Coalition Against Censorship: http://www.ncac.org/censorship_news/20030305~cn067~The_Arts_Under_Attack_-_Firefighters_in_Pennsylvania_Put_Out_Art_Show.cfm[[Category:1990s]