A new exhibit has opened at the Coutts Museum of Art, "Chromatic Hallucinations" however, not everyone wants to talk about the art but rather the artist himself.
Lana Malone and her friends are protesting the museum’s decision to show the artworks of Sean Christopher Ward.
Malone said, "My biggest issue is that they are supporting a sex offender." Her request was for transparency regarding the artist. Ward is a registered sex offender who was convicted 10 years ago, served his court imposed sentence and has under gone rehabilitation.
While Ward will not be present at the museum, where his art will be on display through September 30th, he did issue a statement addressing the protest, "I have no fear of talking about my past or how people will use it against me, like some individuals have been doing over this last month on social media."
Ward said, "It’s been 10 years now and I don’t even have a speeding ticket on my record. I have been able to host 500+ artists from around the world in my community and my gallery, on my own dime. I have been able to host 70+ musicians from around the Midwest for my community, on my own dime. I have provided a safe space for everyone, no matter their gender/classification/skin color, to do what they love and I’ve done everything I can to help make their careers moving forward better than before."
Ward said his sole mission in life is to redeem himself from his past actions and help make his community a better place.
"I am not here to promote anything negative, nor to create spaces in which people cannot feel safe," said Ward.
"That’s why people trust me now. I have earned that trust from the years of constant hate and disgust towards my actions and I have not let it affect my progress forward to become an upstanding citizen and help my community to the best of my ability and in a safe manner."
Ward said, "I cannot change my past, as much as I wish I could, but my actions 10 years ago do not define me indefinitely, they define that old version of me. I am a firm believer that people who want to change, can change, and that’s why I have never judged anyone and provided any artist with a space to express themselves in my galleries. The judiciary system and law enforcement are doing their rightful jobs of monitoring me for the rest of my life and I have yet to let them, or society, down again. It is not social media’s keyboard warriors job, nor is it the right way to go about things when they haven’t even met the person before."
With respect to the protesters, Ward said, "These individuals have yet to reach out to me, even once, to talk about my history or anything of the sort. They just took it upon themselves to paint a picture of me to the public of the "worst case scenarios" they could think of," Ward said. "Though, I am ashamed of my action from ten years ago, I am proud of the person I have become today."
In a statement, Tim Howard, Executive Director of the Coutts Museum of Art said, "The Board and staff of the Coutts recognize what an honor it is to live in a country where creating, exhibiting, and experiencing art is a constitutional right under the First Amendment. Consistent
with our fundamental commitment to freedom of speech we will not censor exhibitions in response to political or ideological pressure.
"Just as we believe that the works of art on display are worthy of an exhibit, we also understand that the group protesting today have a right to their freedom of speech and will in no way interfere with their right to peacefully protest. They are not protesting the art, they are protesting the artist’s past.
"The Coutts Museum of Art in no way supports crimes of any nature. This crime was processed through the judicial system ten years ago, and this artist has served his punishment for that crime accordingly. The safety of our guests and staff is always our foremost priority; this exhibit is no exception.
"The Family Life Center - Safehouse is proud to accept all donations received from the public for the exhibit. This organization provides comprehensive services to the victims of the crimes of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault/abuse."