A new exhibit at a Michigan city art gallery features a provocative piece that depicts four Republican governors beneath the Nazi party symbol. Despite complaints, the work will remain on display.
Titled “The Faces of American Fascism,” the poster has pictures of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Wis. Gov. Scott Walker, Mich. Gov. Rick Snyder and Fla. Gov. Rick Scott under the national insignia of Nazi Germany. The symbol of the Republican Party is encircled in the wreath under the eagle instead of a swastika.
Written in the middle of the poster are the words, “Anti union,” “anti worker,” “anti woman,” “anti elderly” and “anti poor.” At the bottom, it charges viewers to “Rise up! Demand a recall” next to an image of a closed fist.
The piece is part of the City of Marquette Arts and Culture Center’s “What’s in a Name?” July exhibit. Housed in the lower level of the city public library, the exhibition is slated to run through July 29.
The center provides gallery space for six to 12 exhibits per year, with artists sometimes waiting more than a year to show their work. Nikke Nason, the arts administration director, said the center is financed through the city’s general fund.
According to the center’s website, “Exhibitions are curated with consideration for quality of the exhibit, what will be of interest to the community locally, regionally or nationally and suitability of subject matter…. All displays that the art gallery exhibits are suitable for all ages and will not promote discrimination against any person or group.”
Nason said the exhibit’s two artists, Joe Sobel and Sean Michael Stimac, are both local and have shown their work in the area before. According to a city press release, Stimac, the poster’s creator, “visually communicates his message, which is often political in nature.”
Marquette Assistant City Manager Karl Zueger, who oversees the center, acknowledged the piece was “questionable” but said it did not violate the city’s standards for being obscene, sexually explicit, having elements of racism or inciting violence.
“We didn’t see that it met any one of those tenets,” Zueger said in an interview with The Blaze.
Zueger said he consulted the chair of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and sought a legal opinion before making the final call on whether to display it.
“This is a First Amendment right, freedom of expression. From those we’ve consulted from an artistic standpoint they deem it an artistic expression,” he said.
The exhibit contains a disclaimer saying the art does not represent the beliefs of the city of Marquette and is solely the expression of the artist, Zueger said.
“Art’s not without controversy,” he added.
Zueger said he’s received “a few” complaints from the Marquette County Republican Party.
“It’s their belief that it is offensive, they’ve requested we take the piece down,” Zueger said.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. When you have an art gallery there are times that the artist may illustrate a perspective, whether it be political or social and there’s always that possibility of it being offensive,” Zueger said. “We intend to keep it up until the exhibit closes.”
But Marquette County Republican Party Chair Dan Adamini said his organization is not calling for the piece’s removal, but instead wants to ensure a “mistake like this could never happen again.”
“I’m calling into question the judgment of the people [who approved the work],” Adamini said. “This is clearly not art, this is hate speech and a call to political action.”
Adamini said he’s not doing this as a Republican, and that any such work would offend “any clear-thinking person.”
“Freedom of speech says the government won’t punish you for anything you say,” he said. “It doesn’t guarantee a government-sponsored audience.”
Nason estimated she too has received “six or seven” complaints from patrons who were offended by the work. She said they did not tie themselves to the Republican Party.
(h/t Blaze reader Clint)