Free form

Sue Carter Flinn calls for open discussion.

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An unrelated panel discussion on "Trust in Freedom of Artistic Expression: Is Art Free?" on Thursday, November 15 at Saint Mary's University (7:30pm, Scotiabank Theatre, Sobey Building) has become incredibly timely, given the controversy around a piece of art currently on display at that university's art gallery.

"Black Santa Coffee Pot" by acclaimed artist Léopold L. Foulem, whose nonfunctional, highly exaggerated representations of ceramics comment on both current culture and historic ceramic traditions, has upset some students due to its portrayal of outdated and painful stereotypes of black culture. Foulem has said that the piece represents a class of ceramic objects, and not people, which is why Santa, a fictional character, stands in as a figural form. Regardless, this situation presents opportunities for everyone to talk about these issues in an open forum.

Although the panel deals with many complexities around artistic freedom, the gallery is also planning a moderated talk specifically about this piece. According to director Robin Metcalfe, "In a university gallery, we're in an academic environment where there is a culture that supports the idea of freedom of expression—where there is an environment where challenging material might be presented. That goes with responsibilities, of course. But the responsibilities include the willingness to confront potentially challenging things and to confront them in an open-minded way and to express differing views in a respectful way."

The date and time—and whether Foulem will be able to attend—are to be determined, but check thecoast.ca for details.

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