County Govt Center Displays Controversial Political Art Exhibition in Election Season

Reportedly taken down Oct 23-- and then NOT

By George Miller

We received four complaints (in a section later in this article) in a 24 hour period about a new Ventura County Arts Council  exhibit at the Ventura County Government Center, at 800 South Victoria Avenue in Ventura. The material in contention was displayed on the ground and third floor atrium in the administration building.

VCAC Exhibit 1, at VC Govt. Center, 10-18-18.

Most of the works in question were highly political, left-leaning and graphic, including anti-administration, anti-gun, pro “Black Lives Matter,” “Gays Against Guns,” women/girls wearing vagina hats, “Resist” posters, carrying signs promoting causes associated with the left and more.

Note: Part of the exhibit was reportedly taken down 10-23-18. We are attempting to confirm and determine circumstances. Watch for another article, which will also incorporate what happened on this at the 10-30-18 Supervisors meeting.

VCAC Exhibit 2, at VC Govt. Center, 10-18-18.

 

The works in contention were housed at the Ventura County Government Center in Ventura, in the Administration building atrium, at 800 South Victoria Ave.

 

VCAC Exhibit 3, at VC Govt. Center, 10-18-18.

 

VCAC Exhibit 4, at VC Govt. Center, 10-18-18.

 

VCAC Exhibit 5, at VC Govt. Center, 10-18-18.

 

VCAC Exhibit 6, at VC Govt. Center, 10-18-18.

 

VCAC Exhibit 7, at VC Govt. Center, 10-18-18.

 

VCAC Exhibit 8, Displayed at VC Govt Center VCAC art exhibition 10-18-18: Activist/artist Gracie Pekrul displays summary poster of her sketches of Parkland shooting victims at anti-gun “March for Life” rally. Quite a bit of Atrium wall real estate was taken up by her exhibit.

VCAC Exhibit 9. This accompanied the Gracie Pekrul material at the VCAC art exhibit at the VC Govt. Center, seen on 10-18-18.

 

VCAC Exhibit 10, at VC Govt. Center, 10-18-18.

 

While freedom of expression is something fairly widely accepted, it seemed to the complainants to be highly politically one-sided, hard core and unbalanced. In addition, the most political items were displayed in a public, taxpayer-funded building almost directly adjacent to the County Clerk’s office, next to the elevators leading downstairs to the Elections Division and directly above that on the third floor as well, right in the heat of a contentious election season. Some relatively politically non-controversial works were located elsewhere.

We thought that the reports might be exaggerated, so I headed over there to see it for myself and photograph it on Thursday afternoon. I found that the reports were not exaggerated. We included some photos in this article.

I stopped off at County CEO Mike Powers’ office to review my findings and preliminary conclusions with Mr. Powers’ assistant, Veronica Gonzalez, who seemed to appreciate the implications, but professed to know nothing about how the exhibit came to be. I asked for an explanation/statement from the County by Friday at 1 pm, which I received.

 

 

The bulk of the most controversial works are located adjacent to the County Clerk’s office. Photo; George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

 

The exhibition was put on by the Ventura County Arts Council (VCAC):

From VCAC Facebook page 10-18-18

We called and left a message /inquiry on Thursday with VCAC and later received a call from their Curator, Pete Ippel. He told me that VCAC handles all of the art displays in the VC Govt. Center common areas. Most in a given year have assigned themes and one is a open exhibit. VCAC boasts that the VC atrium is the largest art venue in the county.

Ippel described himself as an educator and claimed multiple degrees, including  studies in cognitive science and digital videography, at Cornell University.

The current show in question had two themes: “Chaos & Order” and “Still at War.” In response to a question on how they contact and engage artists for such exhibits, he said they put out an open call to the public. By this, it turns out he meant they primarily put it on their web site and Facebook page, which somewhat limits the universe of people who are made aware of the call.

I told him Citizens Journal had received several complaints that the exhibit contained works of a highly partisan political nature and that the timing (height of election season hysteria) and location of the most controversial works were unfortunate.

He then got into a discussion of correlation versus cause and effect, seemingly implying coincidence.

He denied the works had partisan implications or are biased, which of course is highly debatable. I pointed out that most of the controversial works were on causes/positions held on the left end of the political spectrum.

When I asked him why the exhibit wasn’t more balanced, he stated that he was at the mercy of what artists submitted. I later learned that really wasn’t true (see below). Not knowing what else was submitted, it wasn’t evident what didn’t make the cut, but a few artists had the lion’s share of visibility.

However, a closer look at the call for artists suggests that VCAC was in fact seeking sharp political/social controversy, in contrast with what Mr. Ippel told me in our 10-18-18 telecon:

Excerpt from Call to Artists: 2018-still_at_war_chaos_and_order . . . 

ABOUT THE SHOW THEME
The goal is to exhibit art that explores the contrast
between CHAOS & ORDER. In addition, STILL AT WAR
not only encompasses physical and ideological conflicts
but also the fights for equal rights, the war on drugs, and
sexual harassment. Delve into the concept of conflict and
find your expression. How does fighting for vs. fighting
against differ? Please view STILL AT WAR | CHAOS &
ORDER as your opportunity to conceptually stretch your
artistic practice. Wide interpretation of the theme is
encouraged. All media is accepted.

 

Technically, they did not violate their own guidelines:
LIMITS ON SUBJECT MATTER
The gallery is located in a public office building where citizens
must come to conduct business. Therefore, some limits are
placed on artwork content. Nudity, violent images, and
promotion of a religion or political parties are not acceptable.
Contact the Gallery Coordinator for guidance.

While specific political parties weren’t discussed, the positions advocated/promoted are almost exclusively associated with Democrats, Socialists, Communists and associated NGO’s (Non-Government Organizations).

Mr. Ippel said that a formal exhibit opening will be held on October 26, at the VC Government Center Atrium, from 5:30-7:00 PM.  The artists have been invited and refreshments will be served.

 

 

Complaints

We received several calls and emails. Not everyone was willing to speak on the record, but we have these from Ventura County people willing to speak on the record:

      -Deborah-Baber Savalla, Port Hueneme, presumed incoming President of Channel Islands Republican Women Federated-

I had three initial impressions to this, in this sequence:

  1. Outrage- That this kind of “PC’ material would be displayed in a public space.
  2. Despair- For that to be here, displayed where people must conduct public business and elections are managed from, all paid for with our tax money.
  3. Overwhelming resolve to do something about it, have it removed, deal with its root cause.

I came back a second time and found more offensive, biased materiel on the level above the main floor. I saw an older man looking at the works. He opened the conversation shaking his head at what he was seeing. I suggested we needed to do something about it. He said “no, it’s already too late!” That really upset me. We have been conditioned to accept this type of outrageous, taxpayer-funded propaganda to be created and put on display in our public buildings.

Whoever made the decision to put this up here showed extremely poor taste and judgment, or worse, this was done by design- oppressive. The left is so powerful here, it thinks it can force such thinking.

Art?
Not art?
Political art?
Not political art?
Art exhibit paid with tax dollars, yes/no?
Art exhibit should be funded with private money, yes/no?

Baber-Savalla went on to analyze some of the works and exactly why she believed them to be politically biased.

 

-Hector Moreno, Oxnard-

Last night at a training session, some pictures were shown to all of us volunteers and we were outraged just to look at them, because they’re being displayed at the Ventura County Government Center, Administration Building, in or near the County  Clerk’s department. For all of us conservative people those pictures are an outrage, since we know that they were put there by the extreme left “Resistance” group, and we want those highly inflammatory so called art pictures out of the public building, which is paid and maintained by taxpayers, including all Government employees and those so called art pictures, don’t represent the American people’s values. The pictures are totally unbalanced- they lean to the left extremely and they must be removed immediately! We know exactly that those filthy pictures are there to promote the deranged Democrats’ agenda and to make us believe that the filth they promote is acceptable to all people. But they’re absolutely wrong about that. As usual, the liberals and their masters, the deranged Democrat elected officials, don’t have the slightest idea of common sense. They have nothing to stand for and have no moral values.

 

Mary Gallegos, Aerospace Engineer (paraphrased):

This floored me. Who picked the exhibit theme? Whoever did  had an agenda. Why not instead paint an ocean blue theme, or something like the strawberry festival? The county doesn’t have the wherewithal to understand how offensive this is and why? It represents Ventura County. The county has an obligation to do something about this. What is the school system teaching these kids? I was taught in industry as a defense contractor to keep politics and religion at home and out of government-funded workplaces.

 

David Shechter, Regulatory Affairs Manager

I’m infuriated and confused by this exhibit and why and how it got there. A government building should be free of all political bias. Who made the decision to put this work here? This was probably done by a VC govt.-retained service.  There is a”subterranean flow” of such sentiment in California.

 

Ventura County Response

I also spoke with VC Public Information Officer Bill Nash:

His written words on the subject:

The County does not choose the artwork displayed by the Ventura County Arts Council. It provides gallery space to the Ventura County Arts Council as a public service.

The areas in the Hall of Administration where the art is displayed are a Public Forum and, as a result, the art is afforded all of the protection available under the First Amendment.

While the Clerk-Recorder also serves as the Registrar of Voters, all voting and election activities are carried out in and around the Elections Division on the Lower Plaza and there is no art whatsoever displayed on that floor in public spaces.

As mentioned, the County does not choose the art displayed by the Ventura County Arts Council and, as such, the County is not promoting, supporting or opposing any agenda that may be represented by the art.

Over the course of a year, there are many displays, memorials and other forms of public expression exhibited in the Hall of Administration. Anyone wishing to exhibit in the building is welcome to contact our General Services Agency for the procedures on doing so.~~~

Discussion with Mr. Nash brought up those points and a few more. He also indicated that VCAC has been the exclusive entity to stage exhibits at the VC Govt. Center. I don’t know whether this is contractual. When I pressed him about how others could have access to the space, he told me to contact David Sasek of General Services, whose organization he said is in control of that space and any entities which might use it. It would be interesting to see how fruitful and complex that route would be. Two people already have told me that they have ideas for exhibits.

Interestingly, Mr. Nash told me that he did not believe that the exhibit was political or biased, but he did not address that in his written comments, but only sought to distance the County from the selection decisions. Mr. Ippel, the VCAC Curator, expressed similar sentiments.  I asked some people seen at the government center what they thought of the exhibits. Most did not notice or care about them. I spoke to four more people who do go there fairly regularly. None had noticed the exhibits.

 

Analysis

So, what’s the big deal about this? It’s just some artwork and photos put up by some local artists- no big deal, right?  Being an observer of the cultural and political wars, it was evident that it might have much deeper roots. A look at artists’ personal pages by one of the  complainants revealed that some have strong, some would say, political and social leanings.

The call for artists made it clear that they were looking for PC social justice cause material, which Mr. Ippel, the VCAC Curator, did not disclose to me when I asked how the “Still At War” theme inspired such content. I found that by digging up the call for artists for the exhibit, as discussed above.

The County washed its hands of any responsibility for the content, invoking a VCAC mandate, artistic freedom and the First Amendment. However, when results like that ensue, should they take action, or at least speak up? VCAC’s policy says no political party discussion, but clearly these works were about issues near and dear to the left, in spite of insistent denials by VCAC Curator Peter Ippel and VC CIO Bill Nash.

If high caliber people like Nash and Ippel consider this non-political and unbiased, what does that says about what is now considered normal, or what they would like us to consider as normal? Is this an attempt to “normalize” such views?

Consider that material is displayed at a public, taxpayer-funded venue, where Citizens, residents and professionals must come to do the business of The People.

These works at least appear to be the heartfelt sentiments of the artists exercising free expression. But the event also appears to have been orchestrated to produce a pre-determined outcome.

So, even if such biased content was acceptable, should there be equal treatment for opposing views? How would this be accomplished?

Due to the election season and proximity to the Elections Division, is this an election law violation?

 

Why do many consider the displayed works politically biased?

 

 

George Miller is Publisher and Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard. 


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13 Responses to County Govt Center Displays Controversial Political Art Exhibition in Election Season

  1. Nancy Eisenhart November 2, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Truly hate speech, allowed in this country, but should never be supported by public funds. This ‘art” is divisive and an example of leftist propaganda. Pity young people exposed to it. Poor artist, too.

    Reply
  2. R E November 2, 2018 at 4:25 am

    The artwork is visual, graphic hate speech. The Left certainly doesn’t accept or approve of hate speech on publicly funded education institutions, so the publicly funded government center should also be free from hate speech. Get the “hate art” out of my public building.

    Reply
  3. Pablo Benavidez October 25, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    Hurray for VC Arts Council!

    Threatening to remove this art is a violation of the U.S. Constitution!

    ALL VIEWPOINTS IS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT.

    Public space including government facilities is “PUBLIC SPACE.” PUBLIC SPACE IS NOT OWNED BY MILQUETOAST CONSERVATIVES WITH NARROW WORLDVIEWS. PUBLIC SPACE IS OWNED BY THE PEOPLE.

    For those that dislike this exhibit please feel free to lobby VCAC to mount a show with a theme that expresses your views.

    But, be sure to include the 10,000 innocent civilians murdered in Yemen with U.S. made and sold bombs to the butcher monarchy of Saudi Arabia. Also, include a piece about Jamal Khashoggi and how he was lured into his own government embassy and dismembered alive by “royal” inner circle Saudi psychopaths and how the U.S. president was resistant to admit the Saudi psychos actually committed such a barbaric assassination of an American journalist for fear of losing real estate deals. Don’t forget too that Trump declares himself a “NATIONALIST.”

    Reply
    • Citizen Reporter October 28, 2018 at 5:43 pm

      Received via email from Jerry Nordskog, Ventura

      I understand there are various views in our county.
      Nobody can please everyone. But the U.S. Constitution
      does not validate all paintings by all people as necessarily mainstream and applicable in “public places” —– the
      Supreme Court has long ago made a decision that artwork (including expressions of words as well on government property ) need to be of redeeming value in the eyes of the contemporary local citizenship of an area. We moved to Ventura County from L.A. County two dozen years ago, to be a part of a county with traditional values of morality and ethics and sensibilities. The county has seemingly morphed into a more deteriorating leftist-socialist viewpoint as with much of America. According to the Constitution and the Bible we are to respect our neighbors, even love them. And also we are to be even-handed, kind, and to honor people and all matters that we are to try to try to pursue whatever is “true, honorable, right, pure, lovely,and of good repute, and anything that is excellent and worthy of praise, we are to dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 & 9) — while I know we have those trying to do good and present artwork to the general public in perhaps with intentions that are felt to be worthwhile, we must try to pursue those matters appropriate to our county when in a public venue, that meet the Biblical criteria.

      Reply
  4. John Lark October 24, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Personally, I’m from the old school of thought which goes with the mind-blowing concept that if you don’t like something that you’re looking at, stop looking at it and find something else to occupy your time with rather than being morally outraged by it because it goes against your personal value system (whatever that may be). Additionally perhaps if art such as this is offensive to you, it might be useful for you to look within yourself and exam your own heart. What is it that is so offensive to you. It’s just an expression of the artist and the bottom line is if you are offended by it, it says more about you than it does about them. Just my 2 cents worth and my personal feelings on the matter.

    Reply
  5. William Hicks October 23, 2018 at 10:57 am

    I can understand a 16 year old that hasn’t had enough world experience to make adult decisions, but where are the adults that were voted into office; where are the County Supervisors?

    Reply
  6. Mark Savalla October 22, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    The 45 goals of the Communist party covers this very strategy. Been going on since the 5o’s.

    Reply
  7. Citizen Reporter October 22, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Received this cc from Jerry Nordskog today ….

    Dear Ventura County Supervisors:

    The Ventura County Arts Council display of
    alleged artwork is a disgrace to citizens of
    our beloved county!!!!!!

    I exhort you, Supervisors, to have it removed
    post haste. It is distasteful and out of place
    to the residents of Ventura County and I
    question how that Council had the audacity
    to hang many of the paintings & the whole
    display is non-sensical and an affront to
    citizens of our county.

    Please pursue their removal expeditiously
    of this nonsensical insane alleged-artwork.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Gerald C. & Gail G. Nordskog, Ventura

    Jerry Nordskog

    Reply
  8. La Donna Martinez October 22, 2018 at 11:13 am

    My question to those in power is WHEN WILL PRO CONSERVATIVE ART BE DISPLAYED?

    Reply
  9. Bill Haff October 22, 2018 at 10:40 am

    Hi George – I agree the timing of the exhibit is bad. That said, as a lifetime artist I can share that there are very, very few professional artists who are not political liberals, so the content of this exhibit is not surprising. If you invite working artists to submit politically-themed work, you are going to get a lot of liberal and left-wing images. There’s no conspiracy going on. Yes, there are some famous conservative artists – Winston Churchill, George W. Bush – but they are mostly amateur hobbyists.

    Reply
  10. Susan Kline October 22, 2018 at 9:31 am

    This is a reflection of the direction Ventura County is headed. Emotion influenced. Stir up chaos rather then promote appreciation and instill hopeful artists to have eyes and minds wide open.

    Reply
  11. William Hicks October 22, 2018 at 12:55 am

    Who approved this to be displayed on public property? I might understand this from a 16 year old, and I might understand this display being shown at a political event, but where are the adults that were voted in as County Supervisors? What is their responsibility in this one sided display?

    Reply
    • Citizen Reporter October 22, 2018 at 12:58 am

      It appears that VCAC Curator approved. County says it’s not their job!

      Reply

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