Clay Says Architect of the Capitol’s Removal of Student’s Award-winning Painting is an Act of Shameful, Retroactive Vigilante Censorship
WASHINGTON – After the Architect of the Capitol removed Untitled #1, the winning entry from Missouri’s 1st congressional district in the 2016 Congressional Art Competition (following criticism of the artwork by Speaker Ryan and several GOP Members of Congress), Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (D) Missouri and Congressman Cedric L. Richmond (D) Louisiana, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, issued the following first-person statements:
CONGRESSMAN WM, LACY CLAY (D) MISSOURI AND
CONGRESSMAN CEDRIC L. RICHMOND, CHAIRMAN, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS
FIRST-PERSON FROM MR. CLAY
“By his unprecedented and unconstitutional action, following criticism of the artwork by Speaker Ryan and several GOP Members, the Architect of the Capitol acted to suppress the free speech rights of my constituent, and they have also sent a chilling message to young Americans that their voices are not respected, their views are not valued, and their freedom of expression is no longer protected in the U.S. Capitol.
The assertion that the painting did not comply with the rules of the Congressional Art Competition is arbitrary and insulting. Like the other 400+ entries, this painting was accepted and approved by the Congressional Art Competition last spring, and it has been peacefully displayed in a public forum for more than six months.
David Pulphus’ remarkable artwork will be relocated and displayed in a place of honor in my Capitol Hill office. But this is now about something much bigger than a student’s painting, it is about defending our fundamental 1st Amendment freedoms which include the right to free expression; even when that creativity is considered objectionable by some, and applauded by others.
I plan to seek reversal of the Architect’s determination in short order. Supreme Court precedent clearly falls on the side of artistic freedom as protected speech. As a Member who reveres the 1st Amendment, I can assure you that I will redouble my efforts to defend it, and ultimately, the Constitution will prevail.”
FIRST-PERSON FROM CHAIRMAN RICHMOND:
“I support our police, but I also support the rights of those in the communities we represent to express frustrations with their day-to-day realities. Unfortunately, politics has yet again trumped common sense. Rather than engage in a thoughtful dialogue about what would motivate an 18 year-old to express himself in this way, the Architect of the Capitol and Congressional leaders have chosen to exercise their power to suppress a child’s free expression.”
View the letter of removal from the Architect of the Capitol. (pdf)