Lafayette pulls arts funding over exhibit

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

OXFORD – Lafayette County supervisors voted 3-2 Monday against renewing a $15,000 annual appropriation to the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.
The council became controversial recently after Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson asked its leaders to move an exhibit from the city-owned Powerhouse Arts Center, a request that they honored by holding it in a nearby business’ parking lot.
The exhibit, titled “Scratch and Sniff” by creator Katherine Rhodes Fields and described as a parody on the way women are treated, reportedly included food images along with nude images of Playboy bunnies with strategically placed, food-scented coverings.
“The show had a message about treating people fairly and recognizing the language that was used,” said Wayne Andrews, executive director of the arts council. “We thought that was an important message.”
District 5 Supervisor Ray Sockwell said, “If I’m going to vote to spend county money on it, it’s going to have to be for everybody.”
Asked whether the council’s other work counterbalanced the “Scratch and Sniff” exhibit, he replied, “If they’re going to allow trash … to be seen, I’m not going to support it.”
Board President Lloyd Oliphant, who made the motion to suspend funding, said the arts council may yet address the board’s concerns.
“They can come back and re-request, but it’s my position that they need to formulate a plan for usage of our government dollars so that anything that funds is appropriate for each citizen in this county,” he said. District 3 Supervisor Robert Blackmon also voted not to renew funding.
District 1 Supervisor Mike Pickens joined District 2 Supervisor Johnny Morgan in supporting continued funding.
“That’s something we’ve always done in the past,” Pickens said. “I know art can be controversial, but … I’m not in a position to qualify or quantify what art is.”
Most funds appropriated from Lafayette County are used for educational programs outside Oxford, said Andrews, who added he will re-petition the board next month.
“We recognize where the funding comes from and their intent, and we use it accordingly,” he said.
errol.castens@journalinc.com