Petition Urges Indiana University President to Reinstate Palestinian-American Artist’s Exhibition

Staff report

Bloomington, Indiana – January 10, 2023

A petition has been initiated, calling for the reinstatement of an exhibition featuring Palestinian American abstract painter and IU Alumna Samia Halaby at Indiana University (IU). The retrospective, titled “Samia Halaby: Centers of Energy,” was canceled abruptly by the university, prompting the petition.

Madison Gordon of Oakland, California, launched the petition on Action Network [link], urging IU President Pamela Whitten to reconsider the decision. The petition emphasizes the cultural significance of Halaby’s work and aligns with the university’s mission of providing broad access to education and supporting academic freedom.

The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at IU had meticulously planned the exhibition for over three years. Scheduled to open on February 10, 2024, and run until June 9, 2024, the retrospective aimed to showcase the evolution of Halaby’s artistry. It included contributions from the museum’s collection and loans from public and private collections.

The cancellation, communicated to Halaby on December 20, 2023, cited “safety concerns,” without presenting evidence of threats to the artwork or the campus, according to Gordon. The petition alleges that private appeals to President Whitten yielded no response, prompting the artist and her supporters to make their concerns public.

In a statement, an IU spokesperson explained, “Academic leaders and campus officials canceled the exhibit due to concerns about guaranteeing the integrity of the exhibit for its duration.” The Bloomingtonian sought confirmation from IU and clarification on the reasons for the cancellation.

The petition argues that the abrupt cancellation contradicts Indiana University’s mission to provide broad access to education and cultural programs. It also alleges a deviation from the university’s stated values of “full diversity” and “a strong commitment to academic freedom.” Supporters claim that the cancellation may be an attempt to distance the university from the cause of Palestinian freedom.

The petition, signed by a growing number of individuals, demands that President Whitten upholds the university’s mission by reinstating the exhibition immediately.

Here is a link to the petition

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