Lakewood center no longer has 'anti-American' stone
By Charley Able, Rocky Mountain News
February 22, 2005
LAKEWOOD - A piece of art removed from an exhibit at the city Cultural Center after three council members complained the work was unpatriotic has been sold.
The piece was part of an exhibit by Bailey artist Gayla Lemke featuring ceramic Hope Stones engraved with quotes about war from historic and contemporary political and literary figures.
te Friday, City Manager Mike Rock ordered a piece quoting political commentator Bill Maher removed after council members Ray Elliott, Jackie Herbst and Tom Booher labeled the exhibit "anti-American and anti-military."
The piece was designed around a Maher quote: "A real coward is someone who drops a bomb from a protected space several thousand feet up."
Lemke said Monday the piece sold during the weekend for $45.
Lemke, who served two years in the Air Force, said the reaction of the council members surprised her.
"I was disappointed and surprised that such a small number of people could effect that type of decision," Lemke said. "I don't know what their criteria or guidelines are for pulling things. It's not pornographic, there are no swear words in it, or anything like that. Who makes those decisions and based on what?"
Although Booher, Elliott and Herbst said they would not take issue with the right to present a controversial concept, they did object to its display in the taxpayer-funded Cultural Center.
They threatened to take their demand for its removal to the entire 10-member City Council.
"I wasn't trying to squash anyone's freedom of speech by any means whatsoever," Herbst said. "I just wanted what was offensive to the people who had complained be removed."
All three said Monday they are satisfied with Rock's order that the piece with Maher's quote be removed.
"I was definitely focused on that one stone," Booher said Monday. "I want to go back and look at the entire exhibit again . . . but, with the removal of that stone, I'm going to withhold doing anything further."
"I am pleased that the city manager has agreed with us and removed the rock that disparaged citizens in Lakewood," Elliott said. "At this point, I am satisfied with the removal of the most demeaning stone."
Despite the elimination of one piece of her work, Lemke said she plans to leave the rest of her work on display through March 25, the end of its scheduled run.
The Maher piece is one of several stones Lemke has sold since the Cultural Center's three-artist "Conversations in Clay" show opened Jan. 10.
The artist also questioned council members' concern over the use of tax dollars to fund the city-owned gallery that housed her exhibit.
"They are taking a percentage of the sales. I forget what the amount of the commission is, but the gallery running it takes part of the money," Lemke said.
Other pieces in Lemke's Hope Stones work contain quotes about war from Benjamin Franklin; author, inventor and philosopher Buckminster Fuller; abolitionist and preacher Henry Ward Beecher; and three-time British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.