ESCONDIDO, Calif. — A display depicting police officers as pigs inside an art exhibition at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido is sparking controversy.
A new exhibit, which opened Saturday at CCAE, features about 100 artists and is titled Street Legacy – So Cal Style Masters. However, there’s one art installation that some are calling controversial.
The piece from artist OG Slick is titled “Three Slick Pigs,” and shows three pigs in a dancing pose, wearing a blue police uniform shirt and yellow badge. The three pigs are standing in front a photo of Minneapolis riot police officers, with a derogatory acronym aimed at police spray painted over it.
On opening night the artist also had pink sprinkle donuts available for guests, which he said in a statement on social media was to “further push the narrative and feed the guests that attended our exhibit opening.”
Sara Matta, the chair of the board of trustees for CCAE, said the board received emails and social media comments from people who believe the piece should stay, and others who believe the piece should be taken down.
The board held a special meeting Tuesday and voted to keep the installation as is and not remove it, cover it, or edit it, which had previously been discussed.
“We are pleased to have this full exhibit available. It is our job to make this kind of art available to the community to all aspects of the community and to encourage dialogue,” Matta said.
OG Slick posted a statement to social media Wednesday before the decision was announced to keep his display as is. He said in part, “To give you a little history, I grew up doing graffiti and my father was in law enforcement so you can imagine the tension at the dinner table. I do understand the need for law and order in any society, but the abuse of said institutions really gets under my skin. My installation was meant to open dialogue within our communities. Isn’t that what art is supposed to do? Honestly if my father was still alive, he would probably be pretty upset about my art installation as well. He represented the old school way of thinking. He was my obsolete moral compass. If it offended him, I knew I was doing something right.”
The statement went on to say, “I am deeply humbled by the outpouring of support from the community, the show curators and artists in the show that are standing with me in solidarity to pull their art works from this exhibit at CCAE if mine is removed.”
Those against the display have taken to social media, calling it vile and said that it is encouraging violence. Some said they will no longer be patronizing the art center because of the board’s decision.
“This isn’t about politics, it’s about humanity. It’s about kindness. This piece is unkind, it’s bullying, it’s hateful, it’s meant to enrage. It’s EVERYTHING we want to quell in society today.” Vanessa Holland, a retired San Diego Police Department sergeant and Escondido resident said in a statement. “Police across the country are doing everything they can to improve themselves and relations with the communities they serve. Without the joint commitment from community members, in this case the California Center for the Arts, we can never move forward.”
One couple heard about the possibility that the display was going to be taken down and came to see it in person Wednesday.
“It was important for us both, as people of color living in the United States, but also as people who let the arts, particularly street art, to come in and show the support and recognize kind of how brave the center is for having this art exhibit in general and this peace in particular,” Khalid Alexander said.
“Isn’t freedom of speech something that we are supposed to be embracing? Isn’t dialogue something we are supposed to be embracing?” Raquel Jacob-Almeida said, questioning why there was talk about taking the display down.
Escondido Police Department said it is aware of the exhibit, but do not have a statement on this one way or another.
The exhibit runs June 25 – Aug. 28.
The CCAE said it plans to start discussions among curators, artists and city leaders that “foster a respectful exchange of ideas.”