NEW YORK — Morethan a month after city officials shut down their graduation art show, 18masters degree students at Brooklyn College have filed alawsuit in a federal districtcourt.
The students, along with Karin Giusti, an art professor whoadvised the students for the show, filed the lawsuit last week saying that cityand school officials violated their First Amendment rights and damaged theirproperty. On May 4, just one day after the opening of their final thesis artshow, officials from the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation closeddown the display because some works were deemed inappropriate for theshow’s space, a city-owned World War II memorial.
Cityofficials said some of the art, which included a sculpture of a veiled handholding a penis, violated a verbal agreement made six years ago between thecollege and the city that the work should remain ”family friendly.”
Students said they were not informed of this stipulation until after the showwas shut down.
The lawsuit also alleges that workers at BrooklynCollege damaged some of the artwork when they moved it — without thestudents’ consent — from the World War II memorial after the cityrevoked the college’s permit to use the space. The students were barredfrom accessing their work for five days.
Marni Kotak, one of theartists and also the group’s acting spokesperson, said that after a month,the students were glad to have the lawsuit filed.
”We’rehappy to take this stand, as a class and as a group, against this unlawfulviolation of our First Amendment rights and damage of our property,” shesaid.
Among the defendants listed in the lawsuit are BrooklynCollege, the City of New York, the city’s parks department and New YorkMayor Michael Bloomberg. Brooklyn College is a member school within the publiclyfunded City University of New York system.
The students reopenedtheir show May 24 at another location in Brooklyn, which John P. Hamill,communication director for Brooklyn College, referenced in a statement releasedby the college.
”While City University policy precludes us fromdiscussing the specifics of any pending litigation, we are gratified that thecollege was able to secure a suitable alternative venue for the exhibit,” he said.
The show closed last Friday.