UPDATED: Warhol Museum Director Protests North Carolina Restroom Law

by Paddy Johnson on April 25, 2016 Newswire

The UNC Art Department

The UNC Art Department

North Carolina’s new discriminatory restroom laws are making waves beyond the music and entertainment industry. This month, Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen cancelled concerts in protest of the new anti-LGBTQ law, House Bill 2 (HB2), which requires transgendered people to use public bathrooms that align with their birth genders and invalidates the local ordinances protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination. The aforementioned rockers are just a short list of entertainers and big businesses taking their business elsewhere. Others, such as Cyndi Lauper and English band Mumford & Sons, have turned their North Carolina performances into benefits to raise money and awareness against the law. Moogfest, a music, art and technology festival, which takes place in Durham, has issued a statement protesting the law—though the festival will run regardless.

Now the art world has its own A-lister protesting the law. Eric Shiner, the Director of the Warhol Museum, has rescinded his acceptance to visit UNC-Chapel Hill in response to HB2. We reached out to Shiner and Hong-An Truong, director of graduate studies for studio art, and received permission to publish their statements.

Dear President Spellings,

As the Director of the Andy Warhol Museum, one of the largest single artist museums in the world—and more importantly a museum dedicated to a gay artist who celebrated diversity, inclusion, and transgendered superstars in his work and in his films, I write to you today to decline Professor elin o’Hara slavick’s invitation to act as the visiting critic for your university’s graduating MFA class.

This pains me in many ways as elin is both a friend and a colleague, and as your students deserve to meet with professionals in the art world who can give them advice and critical feedback on the work that they have honed in their graduate courses and through their studio practice. To both Professor slavick and the MFA students, I apologize, but my conscience does not allow me to come to North Carolina at this time.

Professor o’Hara slavick, please know that I do this in solidarity with those on the correct side of history in this most depressing set of circumstances. Please encourage the students to use their most creative voices to take a stance on this matter should they be so inclined, for it is the artists in our world that can best draw attention to the social ills that haunt our reveries and our contemporary age.


Eric C. Shiner
The Andy Warhol Museum

Response from UNC-Chapel Hill faculty and students (the letter and all signatories to be added on the UNC website shortly)

It is with sorrowful hearts that we, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Eric Director of the Andy Warhol Museum, and his decision to rescind his acceptance to visit UNC-Chapel Hill in response to House Bill 2 (HB2), legislation that eliminates anti-discrimination protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Eric Shiner graciously juried this year’s Top MFA Prize for Outstanding Work for the Department of Art and had planned to visit North Carolina to attend the opening of Depth Perception: Selected Works by the MFA Class of 2016 at UNC-CH’s Ackland Art Museum, to conduct studio visits with our MFA students, and to speak to them about the art world as part of our Visiting Artist Professionals Program.

We are students and faculty dedicated to creating an open environment of creative expression for all people, and we believe that no individual should be discriminated against because of gender identity or sexual orientation. We see HB2 as a law that goes against this fundamental belief of equality and justice and we resolutely opposes HB2, and all laws that legitimize and codify discrimination.

We share Eric Shiner’s letter because HB2 is negatively affecting our students through the loss of important intellectual and career opportunities like this one, and because we see its passing as antithetical to our department’s mission.  We thank Eric for his generosity and his brave and ethical position. We stand by his decision and join the many voices in opposition to HB2.

The university administration has not yet responded to Shiner or our request for comment.

UPDATE: Jim Gregory, Director of Media Relations at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, sent AFC the following statement:

The response to this new law on our campus has grown more intense and more quickly than any issue we’ve faced in recent memory, and many on our campus now feel excluded and unwelcome here and in our state.  As a public university, we are in a challenging situation – we don’t agree with the Act, but we must comply with it while also ensuring the university continues to be welcoming and inclusive.

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