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Defending bare-breasted statue costs KS city big bucks

By   /   September 17, 2013  /   34 Comments

ART OR OBSCENITY: Last year the City of Overland Park spent more than $35,000 defending a statue, entitled “Accept or Reject,” which was donated to the municipality by a Chinese artist. The statue is on display at the city’s arboretum.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE — Is it art or obscenity?

That may be up to a grand jury after a family organization was given a second whack at removing a statue from the Overland Park Arboretum, but don’t expect the city to give up without a fight.

Last year, the City of Overland Park sunk more than $35,000 (not counting staff time) into defending a statue donated to the municipality by Chinese artist Yu Chang after the American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri pushed the matter before a grand jury. The statue, entitled “Accept or Reject,” depicts a bare-breasted woman (with no head) photographing her chest, and was ultimately ruled not obscene.

The Kansas City Star reports:

The latest petition drive, led by group leader Phillip Cosby, comes after the Kansas Legislature changed the state’s citizens’ grand jury law to ensure that aggrieved voters don’t surrender the pursuit of their claims to local prosecutors.

“Now, the second shoe drops,” Cosby said Monday.

Cosby last year petitioned a grand jury to investigate whether the statue is obscene but failed to secure an indictment. He blamed Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe for not leading a thorough investigation. The grand jury session lasted less than a day, and no witnesses were called.

Cosby followed up by joining with abortion opponents to get the Legislature to change the grand jury law. Under the new law, the person filing the petition — in this case Cosby — must be the first person to address the grand jury.

So, just how far is the city willing to go for the sake of art? Officials weren’t too keen on offering specifics when contacted by Kansas Watchdog, but city manager Bill Ebel said the municipality would cooperate if Cosby is successful in landing a second grand jury appearance.

“My personal view is that the governing body is likely to continue defending the important principles identified previously,” said Councilman Terry Goodman, who deferred to City Attorney Mike Santos regarding what exactly those principles are.

Santos did not respond to calls for comment from Kansas Watchdog.

Contact Travis Perry at travis@kansaswatchdog.org, or follow him on Twitter at @muckraker62. Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!

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Travis Perry is an investigative reporter covering news and politics for Watchdog.org's Kansas bureau. Before joining the organization, Travis graduated cum laude from Washburn University and cut his teeth as news editor for the Osawatomie Graphic, where he received numerous awards from the Kansas Press Association.

  • John Brown

    Disgusting. I hope it costs Overland Park a million dollars and the mayor and city council are voted out.

  • Curt Clonts

    This is so laughable. IT’S ART, PEOPLE!! The great masters produced sculptures of bare breasted, headless women centuries ago and we view them as masterpieces. So, we have a young master who makes a new-age version of the same and we are calling it obscene? C’mon. Get a grip.

  • Chris

    Maybe the American Family Association can contact John Ashcroft to help them out. He knows how to win these fights!

  • Janie

    Why do naked body parts appear as ART for a lot of people? Looks like morals have declined a lot. Yes, I know people called it ART many years ago
    but I disagreed then too. What it is to me is pornography Just my opinion

  • Suzy

    Accept or reject WHAT???? I don’t get it! Other than that, I have no problem with it. Kids have seen their mothers more undressed than that for pete’s sake.

  • Phillip

    Art is not the issue. Nor the beauty of the human body. The issue is the sexting act portrayed in a children’s destination. The artist himself describes his work as a broken, fractured woman, striped of identity, showing herself to the world. Too heavy of a lift for a 7 year old. Put it in an adult venue. Why is a city agency putting in front of children an act, that if they mimicked, would be the illegal manufacture of child porn by children? It was a gift from China, received with great ceremony. The OP city council made a bad decision but can’t see a way to show humility, save face and admit this blunder. I would guess that the gift from China was too big to fail. Shades of the Trojan horse!

    About their spending $35,000… for what? The city never even stepped foot inside a courtroom. More waste and bluster.

  • wifenum2

    If you find it disgusting do not look !!I find it artistic myself.

  • Phillip

    Art is not the issue, not the beauty of the human body, nor bare breasts are the issue relative to the OP Arboretum sexting sculpture and children. The issue is the sexting act portrayed in a children’s destination. The artist himself describes his work as a broken, fractured woman, striped of identity, showing herself to the world. Too heavy of a lift for a 7 year old! Put the sculpture in an adult venue, perhaps the OP city council chambers? Why is a city agency putting in front of children an act, that if they mimicked, would be the illegal manufacture of child porn by children? This kind of sexualized imagery is harmful to minors and that unlawful harm was not given a fair hearing in the first grand jury. It was a gift from China, received with great ceremony. The OP city council made a bad decision but can’t see a way to show humility, save face and admit this blunder. I would guess that the gift from China was too big to fail. Shades of the Trojan horse! About OP spending $35,000… for what? The city never even stepped foot inside a courtroom. More waste and bluster. What is new in the second citizens grand jury (CGJ) effort is this, following the incitement from the Kansas legislature to DA’s for their mischief, and the legislative rewrite of the citizens grand jury process, the JOCO DA will be scrutinized for the crimes of witness tampering and obstruction of justice in the first CGJ effort.

    Phillip Cosby, State Director

    American Family Assoc. of KS & MO

    913-787-0075

    pcosby@afa-ksmo.net

  • wifenum2

    I see nothing pornographic about this sculpture. If you do not like it do not look at it: it is artistic to me.

  • John Todd

    LOOKS LIKE ART TO ME!

  • salina61

    It’s like Miley Cyrus…she did it for art on the VMA’s and EVERYONE on the left was outraged that the kids might have seen it. Kids are GOING to see it at the Arboratum but noone on the left is outraged. LIberal hypocrisy at it’s finest.

  • salina61

    Art is subjective and in the eye of the beholder, what is art to you, isn’t to others. This stupid ill placed statue can hardly be viewed or compared to the “masterpieces” of the past. The content doesn’t make it obscene, but the PLACEMENT of it does. I don’t let my young children see the lurid content “masterpeices” of yesterday at the museum until they can understand it and discuss it and I don’t want them to see lurid content in the “Park”. From your post, I doubt you have children Curt. When you do, we’ll talk.

  • Laverl Turley

    All of you that have posted here and read these posts, Ask your selves WHO IS PAYING FOR THIS???? Is it We The People? Our TAX money. No one wants to budge, on either side here.

  • threebarrs

    I’m glad it’s in KS and not in my state. However, if it is in the childrens part of the Arboretum, it is not at all tasteful. Having spent my growing up years in KS, I expect Kansans to have more class and taste than to put something like this where it is viewed on a daily basis by children. And I’m sure children would much prefer something that pertains more to their age sensibilities.

  • Magic Voice

    Whether, where, and how to exhibit a statue that belongs to the city is a political decision. The issue is that a few people, unwilling to accept the outcome of the political process, are repeatedly abusing the “citizen grand jury” system, merely to induce aggravation and cost (since the case cannot be won on its merits.) It is that abuse which is costing money (though, I question the amount claimed, for which the reporter gives neither citation nor support.)

  • T2

    This particular piece is demeaning to women. Why not put a dismembered man here instead? Would it then be pornographic? Would it be art? Or would it just be somebody’s bad dream?

  • mom2

    history has far more obscene pieces of art, but they fill the history books… oh yes would you wish to edit those too?

  • chamomiletea

    Exactly. Location is the issue. “Put the sculpture in an adult venue, perhaps the OP city council chambers.” Perfect solution. It will probably cost less to move it than to keep going to court spending TAX dollars to defend its current and inappropriate location.

  • rodle56

    “EVERYONE on the left was outraged”… I’ve told you a billion times not to exaggerate.

  • Kirkroy

    Nature doesn’t harm. It kills and devours. Being up in arms over a sculpture because breasts are involved is foolish. Children KNOW what a breast is. The statue isn’t about sex, and hiding children from any part of sexuality is damaging to a healthy sexual relationship. I point to the DECADES of catholic priests doing actual harm to children as a good example.

  • salina61

    Don’t exaggerate…you only told me a couple of MILLION times.

  • rodle56

    Nice… Of course you do realize that your original statement is incorrect on many points, right? MC did not do it for art, she did it for sales. It seemed to me that more right wingers were outraged by MC than lefties. I’m also sure that SOME on the left will be outraged by the statue. And finally, to call these errors of yours “liberal hypocrisy” is the logical fallacy called a “strawman” argument. You might also want to check out “confirmation bias”

  • salina61

    I don’t think my original statement is incorrect on ANY points. “ALL” of my liberal friends were outraged by Miley Cirus’s performance being seen by children on the TV (in which they have control to TURN IT OFF) but are okay with children seeing something just as offensive in a public park I don’t need to be lectured by “elites” either from the left or right. I am impressed however by your use of words like “logical fallacy” and I am quite aware of the deffinition of “strawman” argument and “confirmation bias”. As a liberal, you can disagree with me, you can ignore me, you can contradict me, but don’t try to “school” me with liberal semantics,

  • salina61

    It’s art when it fits their narrative and it’s pornograpic or offensive when it doesn’t. It’s that simple.

  • salina61

    When it is in a PUBLIC PARK in an unavoidable location within a posted walkway it is IMPOSSSIBLE to avoid or to “not look at it”. It can not be turned off like a Television or radio, closed like a book or turned to the wall like a painting. So your “easy” solution to the problem is a “lame” one.

  • salina61

    no you just close the book, or turn off the TV, or avoid areas of the museum that highlight the art. When it is a sculputure in a PUBLIC park in a posted walkway with NO OTHER place to go, then it should be edited.

  • salina61

    I don’t know what kind of upbringing you had but I can assure you I have never seen my mother undressed. Nor would I want to.

  • salina61

    WHO IS PAYING FOR THIS…has nothing to do with it. Rather tax payer or private donation, a PUBLIC park is no place for a headless, barebreasted statue to be placed. In front of the planned parenthood office would be fine, but not in a public, family friendly park.

  • rodle56

    “ALL of my liberal friends” is not the same as “everyone on the left”

    If you don’t like being “schooled”, then don’t make public statements that are obviously incorrect.

    As for the choice you give me “as a liberal” (an interesting conclusion with no evidence to support it), then from here on I choose “ignore”

  • Linda Prince Johnson

    The “great masters” were reprobates from immoral societies that mostly no longer exist due to their immorality so that doesn’t impress me at all.

  • Laverl Turley

    Who is fighting the people that want to have it removed? Are they not some of the elected that our money goes to? Why are they fighting us?

  • Isabella8

    Ugly to the max. It was donated because the people who owned it got really tired of it. Great art is timeless… I.e. new everyday… which is not that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Helen-McCaffrey/100000351372804 Helen McCaffrey

    The obscenity is that it objectifies women. It is not uplifting but degrading. No place in a child’s park. Put it into a museum.

  • khromatik

    The irony here is now, not only will more kids be exposed to it due to the publicity, but I’m certain the arboretum will experience a positive attendance as a result, not to mention donations. If people really wanted it taken down, they failed with their poor execution in public and galvanized art supporters (next time use a voice *within* the art community rather than someone who’s only experience is running a family values committee and has no experience in art, policy or administration and has a long track record of wasting donor money and self inflating). Truthfully it’s nothing worse than you’d see in a museum or a national geographic, both of which pass popular standards for children. Perhaps some parents are unable to contextualize this properly for their children. If your child is too young for art, why take them to see sculpture? perhaps a petting zoo is in order?

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