NCAC Censorship News Issue #67

The Arts Under Attack: Firefighters in Pennsylvania Put Out Art Show


Pressured by the Chairman of the local Board of Commissioners, volunteer firefighters in Annville, PA unilaterally revised their contract with community artists who rented the fire hall for an art exhibition in early September.

After Commissioner Alan Yingst decided, without viewing the art, that “community standards of decency” would be violated by a show entitled Sex Is Art, the firefighters called a meeting of the sponsors and the commissioner. The firefighters’ concerns were seemingly satisfied, but Yingst threatened to invoke the town’s legal authority to stop the show. Yingst’s continuing political pressure led the firefighters to limit the exhibition to one and a half hours a day, rather than the whoe weekend as specified in the contract. The show was canceled as a result.

NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin told a local newspaper that Yingst’s conduct may well have interfered with contractual rights and violated the First Amendment rights of the artists as well as rights of the public. “Moreover,” she said, “Annville now has the distinction of being a place artists and art-lovers will choose to avoid.”