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Students protest new Calder sculpture

Emily Poe
The Cavalier Daily, April 2, 2009

In response to community protest, University clarifies restrictions against photography of the statue

Frank J. Guzzone
Calder protest
Around 3 p.m. yesterday, University community members protested the no photography signs in front of the Calder statue.
Students and faculty members gathered yesterday afternoon to take photos of the newly installed Calder sculpture in front of Peabody Hall to protest a ban against photographing the statue. As a result of the protest, the University clarified the prohibition, allowing for personal photographs not intended for commercial distribution.  

Assoc. Media Studies Prof. Siva Vaidhyanathan and third-year College student Seth Golden arranged the protest using both Facebook and Twitter to encourage the University community to take photos of the statue.

The sculpture, which Alexander Calder constructed in 1974, is on long-term loan from the Calder Foundation in New York. Part of the loan agreement forbade photography of the sculpture without permission from the foundation.

Golden, who created the Facebook group, said he sent about 1,500 invitations on the networking Web site about the photography ban.

“These signs warning not to take [photographs] are baseless,” Golden said. “I wanted to get the word out that photography is not a crime on public property.”

Vaidhyanathan agreed, noting that he believes it goes against the American ideologies of free speech and education to prevent photographing the statue.

“There’s nothing in copyright that gives the copyright holder the right to prevent people from taking photos in a public place,” Vaidhyanathan said. “I’m offended that the foundation would be so presumptuous as to stomp [on] Jefferson’s ground.”

Second-year College student Erik Arvidson said he came to the protest because of his own beliefs about free expression.

“I’ve always been a very ardent believer in free expression and free copyright and clearly this is an overextension,” Arvidson said. “It’s right in the middle of our Grounds.”

In response to the protest of the Calder statue’s photography regulations, Beth Turner, vice provost for the arts, released a statement to the University community yesterday afternoon clarifying the photography restrictions.

“The intention of the loan agreement was not to prevent members of the public from enjoying the sculpture or from taking photographs of it,” Turner stated. “It my hope that members of our community will enjoy the beauty of the Calder sculpture and take pride in the fact that the University was able to bring such a high-profile piece of art to the Grounds.”

According to the released statement, Alexander S. C. Rower, Calder’s grandson and director of the Calder Foundation, said the foundation’s sole intent was to make the sculpture available to the University community.

“Students should feel free to photograph the work to their hearts’ content, as long as those photographs are for non-commercial, personal use,” Rower stated.

University spokesperson Carol Wood said the signs surrounding the Calder statue will be revised to reflect the clarified photography policy.

Note:  Obviously Miss Poe misspelled my last name, even after I spelled out my name for her when she was interviewing me.  She had already written out the letter "e," and when I corrected her, she just dotted it.  Clearly this wasn't enough for her to interpret her own handwriting correctly or remember that I had corrected her.  -- Seth.