Temecula city management, which was responsible for removing a nude artwork from an exhibition in January, has decided not to create a written policy for the selection of artworks in city-owned exhibition spaces. Instead, Temecula’s Community Services Director Herman Parker (or someone designated by him) will partake in the selection process.
NCAC Director of Programs, Svetlana Mintcheva, says:
It is precisely the recent record of city officials’ ‘involvement’ in art selection … that prompted us to demand that Temecula adopt a clear policy of art selection. Otherwise art in Temecula will be held hostage to the subjective whims and tastes of city officials. This will not only impoverish cultural offerings in the city, it will also expose it to possible liability under First Amendment claims.
Parker, who confesses not to have an art background, appears confident that his opinion will suffice:
I know what appeals to me, what I like, and I’ll base a lot of my decisions on the quality of the work and basically what appeals to me … I feel I’ve been around art and the arts community to determine what I feel is good quality art.
That the selection of public art in Temecula ultimately rests in the hands of a public official who believes that the city’s cultural life should be limited to art which “appeals” to him is likely to impoverish the cultural life of the city, as well as put the city at risk of legal liability for violating the First Amendment. As a city official, Parker is not permitted to impose his viewpoint on the public art selection process. We will be watching.