Since a statue depicting a bare-breasted woman photographing herself was installed in the Overland Park Arboretum, community members have been taking sides on whether the statue falls under the definition of obscenity or art.
Tuesday night, Phillip Cosby, the director of the Kansas and Missouri chapter of the American Family Association, George Hsu, a minister with Emmanuel Chinese Baptist Church, and Joanne Hughes, a Stillwell resident who began an online petition against the statue, met with Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach to ask that the statue be removed from the arboretum.
The mayor denied their request to remove the statue.
The city maintains that art is protected by the First Amendment and it is up to the courts to decide if they see any individual piece as obscenity, Overland Park spokesman Sean Reilly said in a statement Tuesday.
The association launched a petition drive this week to compel a Johnson County District Court judge to convene a grand jury to investigate alleged violations of the state law against promoting obscenity to children.
Cosby and Hughes said the statue, “Accept or Reject” by artist Yu Chang, implies and encourages inappropriate behavior for children and the city should be more concerned with regulating the messages that children receive.
They contended that the statue can be defined as obscenity and should be moved to a location intended for an adult audience. Hughes suggested the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
The group aims to collect 4,000 signatures of registered Johnson County voters. The signatures must be physical signatures, not electronic. Cosby said Tuesday it might may take six to eight weeks for the group to collect enough signatures to begin the grand jury process.
Hughes had started an online petition through the websitechange.org, which had 2,722 electronic signatures as of Tuesday.
On the same website, a petition to keep the statue in the arboretum was started by Ashley Fuller, a Shawnee resident. It has 177 electronic signatures.
Cosby said Hughes attempted to schedule a meeting with the Overland Park City Council numerous times and after being unsuccessful, she reached out to his organization. He said he also attempted to schedule a meeting with the council and was denied. Cosby said they were told because they are not Overland Park residents they could not come before the council.
“It gave us no recourse but to begin the grand jury process,” he said.
Reilly said because of Hughes’ initial requests, signs were posted at the entrances to the walking path that include a warning: “Some pieces include a display of the human body and parental guidance is encouraged.”