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Artist’s Constitutional Rights Upheld As New York Town Lifts Ban

April 13, 2011 by  

Artist's Constitutional rights upheld as New York town lifts banA town in the State of New York has agreed to lift an "art ban" in response to a lawsuit filed by a local artist.

Melanie Gold recently scored a victory for artists and supporters of the Constitution as the village of Greenwood Lake agreed to rescind a moratorium on displaying public art. In February, the town enacted an "art ban," threatening fines or imprisonment to building owners and artists who did not adhere to the ordinance.

Backed by the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and a New York-based law firm, Gold slapped Greenwood Lake with a suit, claiming that her 1st Amendment rights were violated. On April 6, the matter was settled when the town agreed to remove the ban and pledged not to pass a future law that compromises its citizens' Constitutional rights.

David Leichtman, a partner with Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi, was one of the attorneys who represented Gold. He said that this agreement reaffirms that Americans have the right to communicate ideas without fear of government retaliation.

"We hope this will send a greater message that artists have Constitutional rights upon which no local government has the right to infringe," said Leichtman. "We see this not just as a defense of the 1st Amendment, but as a victory for artists' rights everywhere."  

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  • Judy

    And just what will they do when some smartaleck starts displaying pornography and calling it “art?”

    • Devasahayam

      Have you been imitating Rip Van Winkle for the last score-years or so?

      That is status-quo.

    • Biene

      Like Maplethorpe?

  • tim

    Most of them capitalize on pornography

    • libertytrain

      Most of them capitalize on pornography? What does that mean?
      Here’s a link to the artwork this city tried to ban -
      And here’s a link to the prior article Personal Liberty had on this in case you missed the link in the article above –

    • Scott

      Only the ones who have no originality, creativity, nor depth of character. Granted, the percentage of these is probably quite high…

      • http://?? Joe H.

        I’m almost in tears!!! I mean think of all the greats, Monet, Gagan, Picasso, and the rest, suffering so for their art and no giverment to support them!!! Those poor people!!! BULL$HIT!!!! Those people were able to survive and were fantastic artists because they suffered and LIVED their art!! Some of these crappers that they call “artists” are so full of themselves they couldn’t tell the difference between the crap that they put out and TRUE art!!!!

        • libertytrain

          Joe – Monet and Picasso didn’t suffer all that much as artists go – probably no more than the average human being faces, i.e. death of loved ones, etc. They actually did pretty darn well while living. If you mean Gauguin, he did suffer however he also caused suffering. All in all, while I love his work very much, he would most likely be considered a real jerk.

      • libertytrain

        As an artist, I have known many hundreds of artists over the years and I haven’t run into even one of the “pornographic” artists you mention. The problem is that the very, very rare type of artist you mention – is the one that gets the attention (and oddly the Endowment for the Arts funding :) )

  • CJ

    Once again, a misinterpretation of the Constitution. We need to get this under control before the Constitution is deemed unconstitutional. To make clear, the Constitution protects us from the Federal Government. Art was never intended. It was to prevent the Federal Government from preventing one from speaking out against it. There are still limits of decency and taste. My only argument here is the use of the wrong basis for their argument.

    • independant thinker

      I do not know the details of this particular case but in general the individual city governments should have the right to promote or ban the display of art in general in their town.

  • 45caliber

    If I remember correctly, the city council had someone else in mind to paint murals. This artist had some pictures in a gallery who placed them in windows and it distracted from the artist the city wanted. So they past the bann to help their picked person.

    If I’m wrong, please tell me the real story.

    • libertytrain

      no – I don’t think that’s quite right -here’s the first story Personal Liberty ran, and it gives some basic info. You can always find out more if you choose re Google etc.

      • http://?? Joe H.

        I just read the article again, and I don’t know how anybody can say from it that it wasn’t pornagraphy, as the article says NOTHING as to the type of art it was. i agree, that we should not jump to conclusions, but we should NOT be funding artists from any type of tax money, either!!

        • libertytrain

          I don’t know why you would jump to the automatic conclusion that it must have been pornography?

  • Ted Birnbaum

    Thank you LibertyTrain for providing the link showing the artwork. Those 3 paintings were entirely appropriate and had absolutely no resemblance to pornography. As I have said on my blog, very often municipalities violate personal liberty more outrageously than either the federal or state governments. They seemed to think they can enact anything, perhaps because less media attention is directed at them.
    I wish the mayor of that town and her town council were slapped with fines and/or they seek to do to us. Maybe then these sob’s (across the nation) would not act with such impunity.

    • 45caliber

      You are right about local governments. A local citizen went to a town meeting and spoke against someone one of the city commissioners wanted. The next day the commissioner called the man’s place of work and wanted his boss to fire him.

      The boss said, “I don’t think the law allows me to fire him for speaking out at a town meeting.”

      The commissioner said, “That doesn’t matter. I run this town and people have to do what I tell them to do.”

      The man wasn’t fired but sadly the commissioner wasn’t jailed either.

  • Bryan Fullerton

    Local governments are the worst for making laws for their own personal convenience or agenda’s.

  • mohreg

    If an artist has the 1st amendment right to publically display their “art”, then any other citizen has their 1st amendment right to express themselves by painting over, or covering up, the artist’s work. Mr.Gold stated “that this agreement reaffirms that Americans have the right to communicate ideas without fear of government retaliation”. By this rationale, I should not have to fear being arrested for communicating my dislike for a piece of artwork (by revising the work in any fashion I see fit), as long as it is displayed in the public domain. If we go down this road then it’s freedom of expression for all citizens, not just “artists”.

    • Vigilant

      With all due respect, Bull$hit!

      A little logic and common sense will tell you that the artist’s right to display his/her art is sacrosanct. Your painting over or defacing that art in any manner unlawfully deprives the original artist of their right of expression. Freedom of expression does not entail the right to deprive others of it.

      You would be arrested for vandalism, and rightly so.

      • libertytrain

        Vigilant – I believe it’s also covered by Intellectual Property Law. One must tread carefully when threatening to destroy artwork — you do not have the right as a rule unless the artist sold you the right. You may have purchased the piece of art but not the right to copy (i.e.make prints) it, destroy it, etc. This particular case came across as some ridiculous power struggle in the city this poor artist dwells in or painted in.

  • CJM

    There is nothing offensive in her art so one has to wonder what the town clowns’ hidden agenda happens to be. Quite frankly, I’d rather see something of substance, which the lady painted, than see filthy graffiti spray painted on the walls of a building. Glad she won the lawsuit and had the foresight to protect future artists in the process.


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