Flag "art" in place of U.S. flag is never a good idea

Officials at The University of Kansas at Lawrence last Wednesday ordered the removal of a piece of artwork from a public flagpole on the campus that had triggered rounds of complaints from Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer and several others seeking or holding public office in the state.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod announced the move late Wednesday afternoon after widespread criticism of the public art project started to build.

The prevailing sentiment from elected officials and others was that the artwork – raised to fly in place of the regular U.S. flag near the Student Union on KU’s campus, disrespected the American flag and military members.

I agree with that sentiment. No flag-art defacing the U.S. flag for any reason should ever be flown in place of the official U.S. flag.

The art piece, by German-born artist Josephine Meckseper, was installed on the KU campus, near The Commons at Spooner Hall, less than a block from the popular Memorial Union.

The flag-art creator, Meckseper, was commissioned by Creative Time, a New York City-based public arts nonprofit, to create the piece as part of the group’s “Pledges of Allegiance” project. She is based in New York City.

“Untitled Flag 2’’ - the name of flag-art in question - shows two black shapes  on the flag along with a black-and-white sock. The artist said it represents a deeply polarized country.

Without such a written explanation by the artist, I think this flag-art failed. 

The fact that a lot of people agree that flag-art should not fly in place of the official U.S. flag also shows community unity, instead of polarization - the overall stated theme of the artwork.

KU was one of 11 institutions at 14 locations across the country participating in “Pledges of Allegiance,” which its creators say “aims to inspire a sense of community among cultural institutions” amid the nation’s divisive political climate.

KU’s Spencer Museum of Art and The Commons partnered to host the project at KU and is the site where the controversial flag-art was moved to.

In his statement Wednesday, KU Chancellor Girod said the yearlong series was “intended to foster difficult conversations.” But over the course of the day, he said, “the conversation around this display has generated public safety concerns for our campus community,” he said. “While we want to foster difficult dialogue, we cannot allow that dialogue to put our people or property in harm’s way,” Girod said. His statement did not mention specific threats.

Several elected officials and others seeking public office said after the flag-art was taken down and moved to the art museum on KU’s campus, commented later that they wanted the controversial art removed from the campus, too.

The flag-art never should have been flown in place of the U.S. flag, in my view, and it probably wouldn’t have become a hot-button political issue if it had been displayed inside the campus museum in the first place.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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