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Arts Council has right to edit Capitol exhibits, says spokeswoman

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Narciso Argüelles, an artist and art instructor at the University of Central Oklahoma, said two of his pieces were removed from his photography exhibit at the state Capitol because the curator felt they were "too politically loaded." One of the pieces, he said, was taken off the gallery wall after the exhibit had formally opened.

One photograph, "Sign," is of a public highway sign used by the California Department of Transportation, often along border areas or near checkpoints, warning motorists that people might be crossing busy streets.

"Literally, it just means 'people crossing,'" he said. "Near busy checkpoints, sometimes immigrants get scared or freak out and run from their cars, and this just is just trying to help drivers look out for those people."

The work was hung on the gallery wall on June 28 prior to the July 2 "formal start of the exhibition and was up during the opening reception on July 5," he said.

RESPONSE
But, on July 10, in an e-mail Argüelles provided to Oklahoma Gazette, gallery curator Scott Cowan with the Oklahoma Arts Council said the image was removed from the installation because it is "too politically loaded."

Cowan would not comment about the piece or its removal from the exhibit, deferring to the Arts Council's spokeswoman, Ann Dee Lee.

Lee refused to comment on the piece, the circumstances surrounding or reasoning for its removal from the exhibit, or any e-mails or comments from Arts Council staff members, saying only that the curator has a right to "edit" any of the Capitol exhibits, and that the council takes this responsibility "very seriously." "Joe Wertz

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