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Art as Propaganda

Posted on 01 May 2009

To the concerned Sag Harbor citizens who feel the student art exhibition that is offered at the high school each year during election night is a form electioneering and favorably sways the school budget vote, we have three simple words for you — Let it go.

We find it absurd to believe a well painted (or not so well painted) landscape, sculpture or drawing can somehow subconsciously influence voters who plan to vote the opposite way to suddenly decide and okay a $29 million budget. “It wasn’t me….it was… THAT ART!” This notion is not only ridiculous, but patronizing and insulting. It also hearkens back to the days of conspiracy theories and subliminal seduction (minus the subliminal part).

As reasonable adults, we would expect voters to base their decision on whether to approve or deny the school budget on the quality and cost effectiveness of the education rather than the artistic merits (or lack thereof) of the given student body.

If we apply that reasoning to other areas of the school, then one could say a shiny and clean gym floor, a well-kept bathroom or gardeners tending the perennial beds on the night of an election unfairly promotes the school’s safe, sanitary and attractive facilities and thus unduly influences hundreds of voters to pass the budget. Will the school be forced one election day to cover up the floor with white sheets or let the bathroom get good and filthy, just to be on the safe side?

Until the art show displays works where candidates are rescuing babies from burning buildings, while wearing “vote for me” campaign buttons, this “art as propaganda” argument is baseless and trivial. Furthermore, asking the school to divide the voting area and the exhibition is not only cumbersome but costs students a valued audience. After all, how many opportunities do the students get to show off their work to the larger community? The anti-art argument seems to be saying “Don’t let the school show the residents what the kids are up to in class, or you risk humanizing the students.”

In the end, the exhibit will be separated from the polling area with room dividers and your griping will most likely cost the exhibition viewers. But quite frankly, we feel it will do little to sway the minds of budget supporters, or naysayers for that matter.

Perhaps this time around, your efforts could have been better spent educating the public on the budget and helping them make an informed decision when they do finally “run the gauntlet” and make it to the voting booth. At future elections, if student art is still bothersome you could simply avert your eyes — or put on a pair of blinders. That is unless the separation of art and state becomes the status quo in the Sag Harbor School District. In which case, the blinders will be put on for you.

 

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