Police ask for removal of gay art display

By |2006-05-25T09:00:00-04:00May 25th, 2006|News|

FERNDALE – On May 17 a woman complained to the Ferndale Police Department and City Hall after she and her young child saw a sexually suggestive art display in a store’s window in Ferndale.
“She actually called me at the store and wanted to know if I was the manager and said she objected to the art that was there and [asked] how she was to explain it to her child,” said “Just 4 Us” owner Kevin Rogers.
Rogers told her “it’s art.” The unfriendly conversation was short, and the woman reported the store to the City Manager’s Office at City Hall and the Ferndale Police, Rogers said.
“I had just hung up talking to the lady,” Rogers said. “Seconds later, he [police officer] was in the store and I was dumbfounded.”
The officer told Rogers there were numerous complaints about the art, it didn’t follow city ordinances and it needed to come down, according to Rogers.
“I didn’t ask him to recite what ordinance it was,” he said. “I in turn called the artist and explained to the artist what was going on.”
The art had been displayed in the front window of the store for two months as part of the Stone Wall Art Gallery, which features art from gay and lesbian artists. The display features no nudity besides rear-ends, chest shots and a few suggestive pieces of art, Rogers said.
“[The store had] … quite a few dozen computer generated art, photographs of men, somewhat erotic, all of which are fine and still up. There was one that was fairly questionable,” said Craig Covey, director of the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project and Ferndale Mayor Pro Tem. Covey also said he hadn’t seen the artwork but was told it was “borderline pornography.”
Rogers didn’t see a problem with the art.
“They’re not even real human beings,” he said.
On Wednesday evening, Rogers covered the artwork with a huge American flag, a rainbow flag and 18 signs that read, “This art display has been censored by the City of Ferndale’s Police Department.”
While walking on Nine Mile Road, Channel 4 reporter Cori Chambers saw Rogers at the store, asked about the signs and flags and told him he had seen the display and “never had thought anything of it,” Rogers said.
Channel 4 broke the story on its 6 p.m. news segment Thursday.
“We did not call Channel 4 News,” Rogers said. “They approached us.”
On Thursday morning, Ferndale Mayor Bob Porter stopped by “Just 4 Us” to inquire about the incident after seeing the news on Channel 4. Porter disagreed with Rogers’ censorship signs and asked him to remove them from the display, according to Rogers.
The day after the incident, the signs were removed and the artist has since removed his artwork, in compliance with his original agreement with the store, not because of the complaint.
which was agreed upon when the artist first had his work displayed. The issue has been resolved, Covey said.
“No one was ticketed,” he said. “No one was arrested. It was a very minor thing.”
Rogers, though, still thinks the woman’s complaint had more to do with the store than the art.
“I think it’s more than just art,” Rogers said. “I had the opportunity to watch a lot of passerby’s and they’d peek under the flag to see the artwork. Quite a few of them said that if this was hanging in a straight gallery nobody would be questioning or saying anything.”

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.