The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) urges Queens Library to restore an exhibition of photographs it canceled and allow it to run for three weeks as originally planned.
Drew Kerr’s exhibition, Faces of The 7 Train, consists of 32 black-and-white photographs that the artist shot of passengers on the 7 train over the course of six years. Queens Library General Deputy Counsel and other administrators were concerned that displaying these portraits on library premises would expose unsuspecting citizens who ride the 7 train to law-enforcement officials and agencies such as ICE.
By cancelling Kerr’s show, Queens Library is suppressing public access to artwork that is fully protected under the Constitution on purely subjective grounds. While NCAC appreciates the effort to protect all Queens residents, including undocumented immigrants, it is not clear how anonymous portraits of commuters taken over a long period of time could put them at risk.
A library can decide whether to invite an artist to present their work or not, but once they have done so, administrators cannot cancel a show for subjective reasons to exclude work they do not like. The library’s action is not only an affront to artistic freedom, it is also an example of viewpoint discrimination and therefore likely to be in violation of the First Amendment.
NCAC strongly urges Queens Library to restore Faces of The 7 Train to reschedule the exhibition to its Flushing branch calendar in the first three months of 2019 on dates that are mutually agreeable to the library and the artist. By doing so, library administrators will not only uphold artistic freedom and comply with their First Amendment responsibilities, but will also demonstrate respect for its constituents’ by affording them access to these artworks.
The full letter can be read below. Click here for a full screen view: