Artistic Expression

Flag Art Installation At University of Kansas Did Not Sit Well With All Stripes, Including Governor

U.S. Flag
Josephine Meckseper Flag. Photo by Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of Creative Time.

News & Updates

The University of Kansas removed an altered U.S. flag that was flying on campus as part of an art exhibit amid criticism from politicians, including the state’s governor.

The flag, called “Untitled (Flag 2)” was part of the nationwide public art project “Pledges of Allegiance.” This flag was an American flag with an outline of the United States in dripping black paint and a black and white striped sock. The flag was on display since July 5, but was removed a week later shortly after the governor spoke with the KU chancellor.

“The disrespectful display of a desecrated American flag on the KU campus is absolutely unacceptable. Men and women have fought and bled for that flag and to use it in this manner is beyond disrespectful,” Colyer said in a statement.

KU’s website cited public safety concerns as a reason for the flag’s removal.

Creative Time, the public arts organization that spearheaded the “Pledges of Allegiance” project said in a statement:

“Art has a responsibility to drive hard conversations. Pledges of Allegiance was begun to generate dialogue and bring attention to the pressing issues of the day. The right to freedom of speech is one of our nation’s most dearly held values. It is also under attack. We are proud to stand by artists who express themselves. Today’s events illustrate the same divisions in our country that the series has confronted head-on.”

Associated Press The Wichita Eagle Inside Higher Ed

Opinion & Analysis

Sarah McLaughlin, senior program officer at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), writes in Artsy pointing to other university controversies over the censorship of artwork on campus and to a newly released report by FIRE on the topic. She writes, “Universities are happy to offer flowery promises of freedom of speech, but less interested in backing them up. In an era where it can take only minutes for a minor controversy to turn into a hashtag, universities too often fall prey to the notion that what matters most is appeasing anger—and ending headaches—rather than protecting expressive rights that the university is morally, and often legally, bound to uphold.”

Artsy “One Man’s Vulgarity” FIRE Report

For more on Artistic Free Speech and Campus Speech.