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Students to sue over closure of art exhibit

Tue., May 9, 2006

NEW YORK – A lawyer for student artists whose exhibit at a public war memorial was shut down after city officials deemed it too racy said Monday that they plan to sue on free speech grounds.

The exhibit, which included representations of male genitalia, watercolor paintings of gay sex and a live rat, was housed in the city-owned Brooklyn War Memorial until the city Parks Department shut it down the day after it opened last week.

The World War II memorial is used as gallery space by Brooklyn College, which is part of the City University of New York system. The Parks Department said an agreement with the school stipulated that art exhibits at the memorial be “appropriate for families.”

The college moved the artwork on Monday and planned to keep it on campus until it could be installed in space donated by a developer, school spokeswoman Colleen Roche said in an e-mail.

Civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, a 1965 Brooklyn College graduate, said he will represent the students in a First Amendment suit against the city, the Parks Department and the college administration.

“A clear message must be sent to the (Mayor Michael) Bloomberg administration that government is not the appropriate body to judge the value of art,” Siegel said.

The students plan to sue regardless of whether the exhibit is reinstalled in the new space, he said.

The college would not comment on a “hypothetical” lawsuit, Roche said.


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