The simple, child-like drawings displayed on the wall at the Ann Arbor Public Library may appear ordinary at first glance, but a closer inspection reveals several young artists” depictions of dying people, planes dropping bombs and soldiers marching in formation.
The adult nature of the drawings has caused many to stop and think about why children would be drawing these terrible, extraordinary events. It has also caused a bit of a stir in the community some have said that the children”s artwork is nothing more than political propaganda and that it has no place in a public library. However, regardless of the nature of a particular art exhibit, a public library is exactly the place to display controversial forms of creative expression. Doing so allows for public discussion of the artwork and also of the issues underlying the art. Those attempting to censor the children”s drawings at the Ann Arbor Public Library have no right to do so.
The exhibit in question features 24 drawings and two essays from Palestinian children between the ages of 8 and 13 who attend a school in Jerusalem. Some members of the community believe the children”s depictions were inappropriate and took it as an unfair political statement on a complex and sensitive issue.
With two weeks remaining for the month-long exhibit, there was enough opposition to the display that a library board meeting was held to discuss the issue and whether it should reconsider the art exhibit policy.
The library”s current policy allows city residents to put up displays because it “enhances the library”s educational role and mission, and strengthens and extends its contact with community groups and individuals.” This policy supports freedom of expression and at the meeting attended by more than 70 people this freedom of expression was preserved. In spite of the opposition, attendees and board members decided to allow the display to remain in the library.
Some speakers at the meeting argued that the drawings were anti-Israeli propaganda and were most likely directed if not created by adults. The truth or falsity of these allgeations is irrelevant to the issue of freedom of expression the exhibit serves the same purpose as any other it expresses an opinion.
The idea of expressing feelings through art to convey a message is hardly new. Every day, people walk into art exhibitions and museums and find items to their distaste, yet these items still carry an important message about life: While one may disagree with another”s methods of expression, it is necessary to respect others” right to display them.
Regardless of one”s personal political orientation, no one can deny the right of this exhibit to exist. The U.S. Constitution guarantees that everyone with something to say be allowed to say it freedom of speech is unconditional.
Exhibit organizer and 19-year-old LSA junior Hiba Ghalib suggested that if others find this exhibit so reprehensible, they should put up a counter display. Situations like the controversy surrounding the drawings could be avoided in the future if the library revised its art display policy to provide space for counter-exhibits to controversial artwork in the future.
The elimination of the exhibit would be blatant, unwarranted censorship and could not be permitted in a country that places such high value on freedom of speech. The community and the library officials should be applauded for their defense of free expression.