LETTER- Gallery policing justified

Last Thursday, art critic Laura Parsons' column described her most recent visit to the UVA Art Museum as an example of over-zealous policing ["Art thwarting: Day at the museum (Part 1)," November 22].

It is unfortunate that Parsons, usually a welcome Museum visitor, left feeling less than welcome. For that we sincerely apologize to her and to those who are considering a visit to the Museum. It is our constant goal to make the Museum a welcoming experience for all.

I would like to offer an explanation for the increased security surrounding the William Christenberry: Site/Possession exhibition that Parsons visited. While primarily a show of Christenberry's drawings, it includes the artist's Klan Room Tableau, an installation dating from 1962-1997 that conveys his interpretation of the Ku Klux Klan as America's oldest terrorist group.

Recent local and national events have led us to understand that the Klan remains a powerful symbol of racial hatred in some communities. Under these circumstances, we felt it necessary to safeguard the exhibition, our staff, and our patrons.

We hope that viewers of the entire exhibition will come to understand Christenberry's attachment to Hale, Perry and Tuscaloosa counties, sites that have been his muse for over 40 years. His attachment is a complicated one driven by fond memories of his family, neighbors, and the landscape as well as haunted by the presence of the Klan.

Christenberry's exhibition is part of the Museum's program "Forming American Identities," which examines the ways in which Southern culture informs American culture. We hope those who have seen William Christenberry: Site/Possession will continue to participate in our next series of explorations in 2008, and that those who have yet to see it will not be dissuaded by Parsons' account. Also– if you can't find parking along Bayly Drive, we'll validate Newcomb Hall garage tickets.

 Jill Hartz, Director
UVA Art Museum
jhartz@virginia.edu

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