Limiting the viewership of Rewind screams missed opportunity for York College of Pennsylvania. Supporting this exhibition to the fullest extent would have demonstrated a leadership role in the community by providing a platform for positive engagement between the student body, faculty, and the local community. This could have been a big win and a victory for the college. It is unfortunate that the administration of York College was not willing to face and embrace the tough topics around racism, violence, hate crimes, and the inequitable treatment of blacks as American citizens. Black Art Project (BAP) was appalled at the level of sensitivity and uncomfortableness at an institution of higher learning who chose to deny access of a wider audience to view the creative expression exhibited by Rucker's Rewind. Such creative expression offers an opportunity for engagement and dialogue on social, political, and
|Paul Rucker’s “REWIND” exhibition |
at the York College Art Galleries.
Courtesy of Ryan Stevenson.
In a case such as this, we must ask the hard question of whether this represents a form of censorship? BAP's response to that question would be an unequivocal yes. Although the exhibition has remained intact without the removal of any items, censorship occurs when materials, such as those in an art exhibition, are restricted to a particular audience based on any characteristic deemed by authorities, in this case at York College, as appropriate for establishing the restriction. In the case of Rewind, access has been "limited to students, faculty, staff, and selected invited guests." Bear in mind, that the York College Galleries has an open access policy which is stated on their website: "We invite you to see our ongoing free public exhibitions!" Further, "All events are free and open to the public."
Rather than limiting access to the exhibition, BAP would have preferred reading that York College created a number of accompanying programs, proceeding and after the installation of the exhibition, that prepared the viewer to clearly understand the meaning and thought behind the artist's intent. The college could have gone even further by providing dialogue that included an intended educational context of the exhibition for York College and its communities.
Although only seen by a limited audience at York College, Paul Rucker has had a positive exhibition simply by the fact that his creative expression elicited some unease and discomfort, and has gained some positive press and support on social media platforms. Although this exhibition is ending in a few days, BAP hopes that in the future, the college thinks seriously about embracing an exhibition such as this, and provide support for it on the college's website, provide an opportunity for an extensive interview with the artist by a professor and/or student, sponsor a panel discussion which would be open to all communities, and publish a fully illustrated catalogue that includes critical essays. It is a bit late to do any of this for Rewind during the remaining time that it is on view at York College. However, for this current exhibition, York College's administration could offer Paul Rucker a public apology. It would be a decent and honorable gesture at this time, particularly after having invited him to their campus to exhibit his works, then limiting access to the exhibition.
REWIND exhibition by by Paul Rucker
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American Library Association's Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q and A