Racially sensitive art gets mixed reaction in Lake City

LAKE CITY, SC (WBTW) – The depiction of a Ku Klux Klan member holding a Confederate Flag standing beside the body of an African American hanging from a noose is causing some people in Lake City to boycott an art competition.

An art piece displayed at ArtFields in Lake City was submitted by Loretta Gerald, an African American artist from Charleston.

The ArtFields competition attracts people from across the country. It is a nine-day competition that runs April 21 – 29 and offers $100,000 in cash prizes to artists from across the Southeast, according to ArtFields website. An independent panel then chooses 400 artists whose work is displayed in Lake City.

Social media posts have circulated on why the panel would choose an art rendering that depicts a racial scene. ArtFields posted an official response on its website:

“ArtFields is a place that gives voice to Southern art. Art can depict the beautiful and sacred, and it can depict the worst of mankind’s soul. All powerful art inspires conversation. One such conversation is unfolding now regarding a competition piece by an African American/black, Charleston area textile artist, which channels a truly tragic Southern experience.

The panel chose this piece for its power to evoke, as did the venue owner. They understood it would create important dialogue. We empathize with any anger or fear this decision has caused, yet stand by an abiding belief in artistic expression.

ArtFields plays no role in the selection of the art that is chosen by the judicial review panel. The pieces that are chosen do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of ArtFields.”

“It don’t take a picture of a black man being hung to start a conversation,” says Paul Davis, who has worked in the music industry for 30 years. Davis says he will not attend the ArtFields competition this year because of the piece created by Gerald.

“It seems the art that is presented follows a theme of the old south,” says Davis.

Davis says conversations about race are necessary, but he believes the reminder of South Carolina’s past is offensive.

“I can remember as a small child in Lake City, South Carolina seeing the Klu Klux Klan parade down Main Street on Saturday afternoons,” recalls Davis.

Karla Angus, ArtFields Community Outreach Junior Coordinator, grew up in Lake City and now that she works for ArtFields, she says its goal is to let artists express themselves.

“It’s never been the intent of the ArtFields team to ever divide. If anything for the last five years we’ve worked very hard to bring people together,” says Angus.

She wants the artwork to start an overdue conversation about racial tensions.

“My hope is, once this is done, that we can come together as a community and talk about this in a productive matter. It does open the door for that dialogue, that tough dialogue that needs to be had,” states Angus.

Former teacher Almeta Campbell says she’ll support all of the artists in ArtFields competition, including artist Loretta Gerald.

“The art work to me represents something that is true but very, very hurtful,” expresses Campbell. “Sometimes it’s very hard when something hurts you to look at it. So, to look at it and be reminded of what happened can really be a horrific experience for a lot of people.”

Angus says she hopes this picture does not over shadow the other artists in the competition, especially youth competition that was expanded to the entire state of South Carolina this year. More than 500 students grades k-12 submit artwork where more than 200 students will compete.

The ArtFields competition will begin this Friday. Artist Loretta Gerald will attend the competition and will speak about her artwork.