LGBT+ art show at Steckline canceled

By Lauren Spencer, Opinions Editor

Although Newman canceled an upcoming LGBT+ art show originally scheduled to be in Steckline Gallery, students can still see it this Friday at Harvesters Arts.

Students can also participate in the silent protest taking place in the Steckline Gallery.

Junior Kevin Clack, president of Newman’s LGBT+ organization Kaleidoscope, said the canceling of the show has affected Newman’s LGBT+ community, but that they will be making the most of the situation.

“The cancellation does affect us, but it’s our job to try to make the situation as positive as possible,” Clack said. “Instead of staying disappointed and hurt, we have to use this as a way of continuing the conversation to advocate for these issues on and off campus.”

The show, titled “Rainbow in Reverse: Queer Kansas History,” was scheduled to open on Friday.  

University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly McDowall Long said the university was worried the exhibit would cause some misunderstanding.

“Over the years, Steckline shows have featured art and artists that focused on topics such as feminism, racism and other potentially challenging academic areas. Although we believe there might be some confusion regarding the purpose and content of this particular exhibit, we thought it was best to make this decision,” Long said in an emailed statement.  

Associate Professor of Art and Director of the Steckline Gallery Mary Werner said the show was about well-known Kansas LGBT+ figures. The show’s art, by Genevieve Waller, brings attention to the lives of historical LGBT+ Kansans, like pride flag creator Gilbert Baker.

Werner said the confusion originated from the title of the show.

“The word queer became a red-hot poker to homophobic haters who stand behind the word ‘Christianity’ as their defense for not loving their brother as themselves,” Werner said.  

Werner said she was glad to see Newman starting new support clubs such as Black Student Union and Kaleidoscope. But with the canceling of this show, she said the university has greatly disappointed her.  

“Over the years I have appreciated Newman’s commitment to academic freedom and to our core values of respecting the dignity of all people,” Werner said.

Students and faculty showed their support throughout the week in a silent protest of the cancellation by leaving stories and messages in Steckline Gallery, and by planning to attend the exhibit this Friday at its new location, Harvester Arts.  

Werner said their display is not meant to serve as a replacement show for Friday, as these shows are planned a year in advance and it would be disrespectful to the artist, Waller.  

“I can’t just say ‘I’m sorry’ and put up some pretty pictures as if this discussion is not important,” Werner said.

Werner also said that the gallery is not the only spot on campus that asks students to contemplate difficult ideas.

“I think it is important to remember that Newman faculty address tough topics in the classroom every day,” she said. “It is my goal to get students to think, not to tell them ‘what’ to think, and to provide a safe environment in which to have those difficult discussions.”  

After 12 years, Werner recently announced this is her last year directing the gallery.

With the cancellation of this show, she said she is worried about the future of the gallery, and that more decisions regarding the gallery will be made by a committee.  

“Those who do not value the passion, vision and direction of a gallery are emboldened to think that art by committee actually works,” Werner said. “I would rather they open a gift shop than present a string of happy landscapes or big-eyed kittens.”