Artifact #8- Censorship and Public Art

Topic: Censorship and Public Art



-Learn about the First Amendment to the US Constitution and US obscenity law

-Examine historical and current incidents of Censorship in the US and their relationship to public funding for the arts

-Explore the relationship of cultural values to free speech and tolerance

Artifact: Censorship and Public Art:

For this assignment, we were to post one thought provoking question or insight about the reading and support this question or insight with background and quotes.

In the article Out of Tune by John Frohnmayer, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas said that free speech, “…may indeed best serve its high purposes when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger…” (P. 49). This sentence singlehandedly expresses my view of the First Amendment, and this view was only reinforced after reading this article. A major part of this article was the discussion of the Alaska Experiment, where the Visual Arts Center in Anchorage, Alaska put together a symposium full of works that had been censored somewhere in the United States at one point in recent time. The controversy of the piece, “What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?” is a perfect example as to why I agree with John Frohnmayer.

The uproar that resulted from this piece being displayed was incredible, full of arguing, disagreements, protesting, and even stealing. While this piece upset many people, including Veterans, I think it also enlightened many. Multiple people were quoted saying that they were not sure coming into this exhibit if they would stand on the flag or not, and their actions ended up surprising them. It is my belief that exhibits like these should be respected because of the messages they are sending. The point of the whole thing was not to disrespect America or any of the symbols associated with America. It gave people insight to their own beliefs and made them think about where they developed these beliefs.

Frohnmayer states later in the article, “Before a controversial artwork is to be presented, the presenter should, by a series of discussion or lectures, remind us of the First Amendment and what it means to protect unpopular ideas and how it preserves our ever-evolving democracy” (P. 48). In my opinion, this completely goes against everything the exhibit was trying to do. The message of the flag exhibit would not have been sent had the creator prepped the audience beforehand. It is unnecessary for people to spoon feed us our rights every time something controversial is presented to us.

I believe that it is important to remember that not everyone is going to agree on everything. Frohnmayer says, “A crucial distinction is that, in supporting a person’s right to speak, we can still vigorously disagree with the message” (47). I believe this battle has a profound effect on us as individuals. It triggers something deep down inside of us and brings out emotions and beliefs that are necessary in defining who we are.


This week’s topic about the battle over free speech and censorship was by far the most interesting one in the whole course. Simply through the reading and discussions, I really felt I mastered each of the goals for the week. I have known about the First Amendment for quite some time, but I learned of new information through the reading, Out of Tune.  

My discussion post centered around the piece “What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?” It was this piece that really got me thinking about free speech and what my beliefs were regarding censorship. It is crazy to me that no matter what the topic or opinion, there will always be at least one person who disagrees. This is because everybody has different cultural values. Some people, including many veterans, were disgusted with the display and continuously tried to steal the flag. Others were fascinated and enlightened by the display, supporting it wholeheartedly. It is a difficult situation when many people are appreciative of something that many others disagree with. How are you to handle a situation like that properly?

The fact of the matter is that censorship completely goes against the First Amendment. I learned from the article that it is okay to not agree with something, but you can still support another’s right to speak about it. It is all about having tolerance for other people’s beliefs. Cultural values should always promote tolerance because everybody has the right to believe and be heard.

Learning goals for the future:

I really want to continue to learn about different historical and recent incidences regarding the battle over censorship and free speech.  It would be really fascinating to go to an exhibit such as the one in the article and see different pieces of art that have been censored. From now on, I am really going to try to keep an open mind and realize that everybody has their own opinion that they are entitled to.


John Frohnmeyer (1995). Out of Tune.

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