Partial settlement reached in art censorship lawsuit

Monday, March 2, 1998

PASCO, Wash. (AP) — An arts council that was sued by two artists in a dispute over the removal of artwork from City Hall has agreed to create a program to display art in public buildings.

The Arts Council of the Mid-Columbia Region has agreed to settle the lawsuit by restarting the program in cooperation with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the artists, and state arts groups.

Artists Janette Hopper and Sharon Rupp sued the arts council and the city of Pasco in U.S. District Court in Spokane in April.

They alleged Pasco officials censored them by demanding several pieces be taken down from a City Hall display in February 1996. The officials said the pieces were offensive.

The arts council, which ran the program, removed the artwork and canceled the program.

Rupps’ bronze sculpture — titled “To the Democrats, Republicans and Bipartisans” — shows a woman mooning her audience.

Hopper’s black-and-white prints showed a nude couple touring German landmarks.

The artists have not settled their claim against Pasco. Lawyers for Hopper and Rupp met with city representatives earlier this year in a mediation session.

The artists are seeking unspecified damages for the alleged violation of their constitutional rights and harm to their reputations.

In part of the settlement with arts council, the council’s board signed a resolution stating it “regrets the art … was censored by the city of Pasco and it continues to support the right of all local artists to display their work without fear of censorship.”

The arts council is working with the state Arts Commission to determine what guidelines other groups use for public displays. The local council will in turn adopt similar standards in the Tri-Cities, said Beth Perry. the council’s director.

“We’re pleased the arts council is doing this,” said Doug Honig, a public education director for the ACLU of Washington. “It provides local artists an opportunity to present their work to people in a place that isn’t a traditional art gallery.”