Deseret Morning News, Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Gay art exhibit raises ire at SLCC

Diversity Week show is moved away from entrance foyer

By Doug Smeath
Deseret Morning News

A visual art exhibit at Salt Lake Community College was moved Tuesday 
after a group of photographs offended several students who are members 
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The exhibit, part of SLCC's Diversity Week, raised the ire of students 
who disapproved of depictions of two men dressed as LDS missionaries in 
various stages of undress.

The photographs suggested a homosexual relationship between the two men. 
There was no nudity in any of the photos.

The art show is sponsored by Coloring Outside the Lines, a club for gay, 
lesbian, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual students. It was 
originally in a foyer near the entrance of the South City Campus' main 
building, 1575 S. State.

But after a group of students "had some concerns" with the art, the 
exhibit was moved to the Student Services Lounge, which is in the same 
building, said Joy Tlou, SLCC's director of public relations.

MaryEtta Chase, an assistant adviser to the club, said she wanted to 
keep the exhibit where it would be visible, but she was concerned angry 
students would somehow damage the art if it stayed where it was.

Tlou described the decision to move the exhibit as the result of a 
"conversation" in which both sides were able to express their opinions 
and work out a compromise.

"Colleges and universities are traditionally a place where ideas meet," 
he said. "The students who were voicing the dissent were doing so in a 
very civil way."

But Kathryn Heaston, a student who is not affiliated with Coloring 
Outside the Lines but said she witnessed the disagreement and got 
involved, said the argument was a little more heated than that.

"He (one of the offended students) got up in my face and was like, 'What 
do you know about the Savior?' " said Heaston, who supports the club and 
its display.

Joseph Freed, one of the students who complained about the photos, told 
KSL-TV he was exercising his right to express his opinion. "It offends 
me and what I believe in," he said.

Campus police officers were called to the site of the argument, but no 
one was cited.

The artist, Don Farmer, stopped by the school to see the exhibit Tuesday 
morning. When he arrived, he found students arguing about his photos. He 
is not a student at SLCC; he graduated from Westminster College with a 
degree in art. But a club adviser asked him the night before the 
exhibit's opening to submit pieces for the show.

"I didn't think it would be in the lobby," Farmer said. "Had I known 
(the photos would spark controversy), I probably would have asked for a 
warning in front of the exhibit," telling potential viewers what to 
expect.

Farmer said the photos were part of his senior project at Westminster. 
When they were displayed there, a similar controversy erupted, resulting 
in a lawsuit against the school. However, Farmer said, the student who 
filed the suit later dropped it after she spoke with Farmer and learned 
of his intentions.

Farmer said the photos were not "meant to be hateful or hurtful" but 
were instead meant to "start dialogue." He set out to depict the 
struggles of people trying to juxtapose their faith with their 
sexuality. He said he was an active LDS Church member when he displayed 
the photos at Westminster, and his bishopric was understanding about his 
intentions. He is no longer actively LDS, he said.

He said the men shown in the photos are both former LDS missionaries who 
were in a relationship.

"Art is scary," he said. "Art is something that challenges. I was scared 
of the images. . . . I learned that there was something that these 
images evoked."

For some viewers, it was increased understanding; others were offended 
but wanted to understand the reasoning behind the photos, he said.

Farmer said he encountered a similar response at SLCC on Tuesday. The 
scene was initially confrontational, he said, but when students realized 
Farmer was the artist, they became "genuinely" interested in 
understanding what Farmer was saying with his art.

Diversity Week continues at SLCC, including a panel today at the South 
City Campus on transgenderism and a debate Friday at the Redwood Campus 
on the issue of gay marriage. The week will wrap up with Saturday's 
Straight Over the Rainbow Diversity Dance at the Redwood Campus.

E-mail: [EMAIL PROTECTED]

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