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Group Files Signatures To Remove Controversial Sculpture

Flickr user BSevett

A grand jury may decide the fate of a life-sized bronze sculpture at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

A group upset about an Overland Park sculpture says it has turned in 4,700 signatures - 1,000 more than needed - to compel a judge to convene a grand jury to investigate whether the work, "Accept and Reject," by sculptor Yu Chang, is obscene. 

The statue depicts a headless, bare-breasted female figure pointing a camera at herself.  The American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri contends that the statue promotes sexting in a venue where families take their children.

In May, Stilwell resident and mother, Joanne Hughes, started a campaign to have the statue removed, out of the sight of children. In a June article in the Kansas City Star, Hughes described why she decided to start an online petition:

Calls to Overland Park’s mayor, city manager, council members, arboretum officials and others gave her no satisfaction.
“Not one of the people I talked to saw anything inappropriate about having that in front of children,” Hughes said. No plans to move the sculpture; no plans even to talk about moving the sculpture.

The Star also reported that, according to Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe: "proving something is 'obscene' from a legal standpoint is very difficult."

By statute, Howe said, something can be deemed “obscene” only if it is shown to lack any serious literary, educational, artistic or scientific value. “In general, across the country, with obscenity cases,” Howe said, “there is a very high standard to meet. The courts have always weighed very strongly on the side of freedom of speech.”

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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