For Penn State student Josh Stulman, years of hard work ended in disappointment yesterday when the university cancelled his upcoming art exhibit for violation of Penn State's policies on nondiscrimination, harassment and hate.
Three days before his 10-piece exhibit -- Portraits of Terror -- was scheduled to open at the Patterson Building, Stulman (senior-painting and anthropology) received an e-mail message from the School of Visual Arts that said his exhibit on images of terrorism "did not promote cultural diversity" or "opportunities for democratic dialogue" and the display would be cancelled.
The exhibit, Stulman said, which is based mainly on the conflict in Palestinian territories, raises questions concerning the destruction of Jewish religious shrines, anti-Semitic propaganda and cartoons in Palestinian newspapers, the disregard for rules of engagement and treatment of prisoners, and the indoctrination of youth into terrorist acts.
"I'm being censored and the reason for censoring me doesn't make sense," Stulman said.
Charles Garoian, professor and director of the School of Visual Arts, said Stulman's controversial images did not mesh with the university's educational mission.
The decision to cancel the exhibit came after reviewing Penn State's Policy AD42: Statement on Nondiscrimination and Harassment and Penn State's Zero Tolerance Policy for Hate, he wrote.
Garoian could not be reached by The Daily Collegian for further comment by press time yesterday.
Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon wrote in an e-mail message that "there are other issues involved in the display that has caused a problem, issues that have nothing to do with the content of the painting." Mahon wrote that he did not know all the details.
"We always encourage those who are offended by free speech to use their own constitutional right to free speech to make their concerns known," Mahon wrote. "This is an educational institution and people should embrace opportunities to inform one another and the public. ... We don't have a right to hide art."
Stulman said the exhibit, which is sponsored by Penn State Hillel, aims to create awareness on campus about the senselessness of terrorism and drew inspiration from images that have appeared in the public through newspapers and television.
He said he was shocked at the university's decision to cancel the exhibit and that he has tried to meet with Garoian on numerous occasions to discuss his artwork.
"It's not about hate. I don't hate Muslims. This is not about Islam," Stulman said. "This is about terrorism impacting the Palestinian way of life and Israel way of life."
Stulman said advertisements for the event were defaced in the Patterson and School of Visual Arts buildings, one of which had a large swastika on it.
Stulman, who is Jewish, said he felt threatened and abused by the Nazi symbol and is concerned for his artwork and his personal well-being.
Garoian also wrote that exhibit space in the School of Visual Arts is reserved for students and faculty, not groups with a particular agenda.
Stulman said he created his paintings on his own and he approached Penn State Hillel in February to help with advertising costs and food for the opening. He said the School of Visual Arts did not object to his earlier exhibit, also sponsored by Hillel.
Tuvia Abramson, director of Penn State Hillel, said while Hillel sponsored the Stulman's exhibit, the group had nothing to do with his message or content.
"We don't have a political agenda except to support the voice of Jewish students," he said.
Abramson said Hillel is exploring other venues for Stulman's exhibits to ensure his message does not go unnoticed.
"It's about opening eyes and challenging viewpoints," Abramson said. "Artistic expression is the basis for creativity -- but here, it was blocked."
Collegian staff writers Meaghan Haugh and Devon Lash contributed to this article.
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