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Salem State University Shuts Down Exhibition Responding to US Presidential Election

An exhibition at Massachusetts’s Salem State University featuring works by artists responding to issues that surfaced during the 2016 presidential election season was closed temporarily after it was heavily criticized for displaying works depicting Ku Klux Klan members and Nazi concentration camps, Dustin Luca of the Salem News reports.

Titled “State of the Union,” the show opened on November 9, the day after Donald Trump became President-elect of the United States. Curator Ken Reker said, “With this contentious election and the difficult dialogues that were going on, I wanted to create a show that lifted some of those hopes and concerns for people in the art world.”

People responding to the show on social media called for faculty suspensions and questioned why artworks showcasing hate were included in the exhibition. Artist Garry Harley’s canvas of the Ku Klux Klan caused some gallerygoers to say that the show supports and may perpetuate racial inequality in America.

Reker cited a lack of transparency as the reason for all the complaints. The theme of the exhibition was only explained in a gallery guestbook. He said, “When the objections began to flood into our diversity coordinator, over this past weekend, I printed the same statements (that artists had submitted in the guestbook) and attached them next to the works on the walls.”

More than fifty people attended an open forum on November 21 to talk about the exhibition, which concluded with the organizers’ decision to shut down the show temporarily to “let things cool down a bit.” An on-campus meeting with faculty and students, which will determine whether the exhibition will be reopened, is scheduled for Monday, November 28.