The Three Rivers Arts Festival (TRAF) in Pittsburgh pulled a video installation by artist Carolina Loyola-Garcia from display in its “Best of Pittsburgh 2007” exhibition. One of the Festival’s corporate sponsors, PPG Industries, had offered its property for the exhibition but objected to the video installation on the basis that it was inappropriate for display. The video, entitled “The need to wash the self with milk and honey” showed a nude female bathing with milk and honey in the woods. The Festival’s Executive Director pulled the piece, stating that PPG “ was within its rights as a corporate partner” in asking for the work to be removed. She further stated that “nudity doesn’t belong in street front windows”.
Private funding to arts organizations is necessary to their survival. However, the need for support should not interfere with an organization’s mission to present the best work and foster an open dialogue within the community. In a public arts festival, a corporate contributor could be allowed final say over what gets exhibited, based on the vague claim of its “appropriateness.” For this reason NCAC is calling on Elizabeth Reiss, Executive Director of TRAF to clarify the Festival’s relationship with its various contributors and re-affirm its commitment to artistic merit and creative freedom.