Stephen Majors, AP, March 17, 2007
When artist John Sims sees the Confederate flag, he sees “visual terrorism,” and a symbol of a racist past. When Robert Hurst sees the flag, he is filled with pride as the descendant of a soldier who fought for the South during the Civil War.
Hurst walked into the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science this past week and saw an exhibit by Sims, including a Confederate flag hung from a noose on a 13-foot gallows in a display titled “The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag.”
Hurst asked the museum to remove the display, along with 13 other pieces by Sims.
The museum, however, announced Friday it is standing by Sims’ work, on display since Feb. 26, because it wants to inspire dialogue in the community about a symbol that engenders a diversity of strong responses.
Hurst, commander of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter, said Friday he has lost respect for the museum, calling the display of Sims’ work “offensive, objectionable and tasteless.”
Sims responded that he’s about as irrelevant as the Constitution.
This is not the first time that Sims and the Sons of Confederate Veterans have sparred. In 2004, Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania drew protests from the group when it displayed the same gallows.
Florida statutes say it’s unlawful to “deface, defile or contemptuously abuse” the Confederate flag, but say it’s also illegal to prevent the display of the flag “for decorative or patriotic purposes.”
“I think that we’re well within the statute,” Barber said.