In this article, Claire Hansen shares the story of controversial exhibitions at two university art museums, the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas at Lawrence and the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, detailing how these institutions have approached the challenge of balancing the desire to foster difficult dialogue with the likelihood of controversy.
Both Meckseper’s flag and “The City” had the potential to upset people, but the Blanton and the Spencer leaned into that friction and, using contextual padding, tried to turn it into an educational moment, something that university museums are in a unique position to do.
When the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas at Lawrence brought the public-art project Pledges of Allegiance to campus, curators wanted to spark a conversation. But not everybody liked the discussion. The artwork is a collection of 16 flags created by different artists in response to the current political climate.