Confederate flag exhibit sparks skirmish in Tally

By Bill Cotterell Tallahassee Bureau
Originally posted on March 16, 2007

TALLAHASSEE — An art exhibit in the shadow of Florida’s Capitol has started a
skirmish with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science plans to make an announcement today
of its decision on a request by the Civil War historical association for removal
of all or parts of an exhibit called "The proper way to hang a Confederate
flag." Bob Hurst, head of the SCV chapter in Tallahassee, said the exhibit
shows a Confederate battle flag draped over a noose.

In a letter to the museum’s director, Hurst said the exhibit violates two state
laws that forbid desecration of the flag. Although the museum board accepted
the exhibit as a way of prompting dialog among viewers, Hurst said it was a
form of "hate speech" directed at descendants of Southern soldiers
and others who promote education about the Confederacy, maintain Southern graves
and markers and support other causes long associated with Dixie history.

"Since there are tens of thousands of us here in this area who are descended
from those brave men and honor their memory, the Brogan certainly runs the risk
of permanently alienating a large part of the local population," Brogan
wrote. "I certainly hope it is not your goal to alienate."

Chucha Barber, executive director of the museum, said the museum staff discussed
the exhibit with John Sims, one of six black artists featured in an exhibition
known as "AfroProvocations." Barber said Sims recorded an explanation
that is accessible by an audio box next to his exhibit.

"I hope this object promotes a real self-discussion about southern heritage,
about visual terrorism, about the currency of art, to engage in an important
discussion, to stimulate the African-American community to think about things
and how to deal with things that might be painful," Sims explained. "I
invite the pro-Southern heritage community not to look at this as a harmful
or hateful act but as an emotional release, an intellectual imagination that
allows us to move beyond a painful past to create a future."

Hurst said it was offensive to the Sons of Confederate Veterans to have the
battle flag associated with racism or violence. He said the Sims piece was an
"objectionable display of political art."

On The Web: