Art AIDS America (exhibition)
Artist: Traveling exhibition with many artists.
Date of Action: August 2021
Region: North America
Location: Zuckerman Museum of Art at Kennesaw State University, Georgia
Confronting Bodies: Republican lawmakers in Cobb County, Georgia
Description of Artwork: Art AIDS America premiered at the Tacoma Museum of Art in fall 2015, and was on view at the Zuckerman Museum of Art at Kennesaw State University from February through late May, before it traveled to The Bronx Museum of the Arts to open July 13, 2016. It was the first major museum survey to examine the profound impact and ongoing influence of the AIDS crisis on American art and culture. Art AIDS America features more than 125 works in a wide range of media dating from 1981 to the present day.
The Incident: Three Republican lawmakers in Cobb County, Georgia attacked the museum. State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), who chairs the Georgia House committee that funds universities, called the exhibition “sickening” and “a blatant political statement.” Ehrhart, as well as State Senator Lindsey Tippins and State Representative Ed Setzler, have threatened to cut funding of future exhibitions, according to a report in the Marietta Daily Journal. Tippins referred to the artworks in the show as "sewerage" and "trash." In a subsequent article, Ehrhart stated that he will have "each [university] president bring samples of that art when they're asking for their funding next year when they come and testify in committee." The conservative lawmakers took exception to a number of works in the show, but were especially offended by the painting "Bozo Fucks Death" by Jerome Caja (b.1958, d.1995) and "Sweet Williams," a work by Kennesaw professor Robert Sherer that is made with HIV- and HIV+ blood on paper.
Only five of the eighteen members of the House Higher Education Committee are Democrats, a dangerous imbalance considering the Republican disdain for education and their track record on free speech and free expression in the arts.
Results of Incident: No tangible actions based on the threats have taken place to date.
Georgia Lawmakers Attack Museum Exhibition Exploring AIDS Epidemic, NCAC, JUNE 1, 2016