CU art student forced to move ‘offensive exhibit’ to remote location

BOULDER, Colo. -- An art display on the University of Colorado Boulder campus is raising eyebrows. Some people say the student artwork is offensive.

University officials have forced the artist to move his exhibit from the lobby of the visual arts complex to the building's basement. Critics of the decision say fine arts major Kaelen Williams’ rights to free speech and expression are being violated.

Williams is marking the end of his college career with the controversial exhibit. He is expected to graduate with a BFA at the end of the semester. Some of his artwork, he admits, is a bit dark.

“I think that has sort of a healing aspect of releasing that kind of energy,” Williams explained.

Work depicting a noose, the Virgin Mary mixed with a Satanic message and images of self-harm have caused concern. Williams says he wants his art to spark constructive conversations.

“Numerous people expressed some concerns about the images they were seeing,” said CU Boulder spokesperson Deborah Méndez Wilson.

Moving the art from the building's lobby to a more secluded location will allow people an opportunity to avoid the exhibit if they feel offended, according to Méndez Wilson. The key, however, is to balance that objective with freedoms cherished by the university.

“We want to make sure that people understand that we value, as a university, free expression, free speech," Méndez Wilson said.

Williams says he has no resentment toward his school. He and his department head are planning to meet in several weeks to discuss a solution to ensure similar situations are handled in the best possible way moving forward.

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