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Central Utah Art Center sues City of Ephraim for censorship

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – The Central Utah Arts center opens an art space in Salt Lake City after the City of Ephraim evicts them. The CUAC is now suing the city and its mayor for censorship.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – The Central Utah Art Center opens an art space in Salt Lake City after the City of Ephraim evicts them.  The CUAC is now suing the city and its mayor for censorship.

At the Central Utah Art Center space in downtown Salt Lake City the walls are covered with huge murals. Artwork done by famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara. It’s just one of the contemporary art exhibits the CUAC has shown in its 20 year existence.  

Andrew Shaw is a CUAC Board Member and explained contemporary art. “Within contemporary art there are so many ways of expressing oneself and it can be photography, it can be painting, it can be performance,” said Shaw.

In recent years the contemporary exhibits on display in Ephraim have allegedly upset some residents. Images depicting nudity or homosexuality prompted some to write complaints to the city about the objectionable material.

Shaw said, “Something that someone finds inappropriate, another person will find perfectly appropriate and so we don’t make those value judgments. We don’t think that’s something that we need to be censoring for people.”

According to CUAC, that’s exactly what the city of Ephraim when it evicted them from their main street building last June.

Ephraim City Manager Regan Bolli told explained to ABC 4 News the city was giving CUAC not only the space rent free but also a large sum of its operating budget every year. “Listen we’re giving you $30,000 to $35,000 a year, we’re giving you free lease on the building, we need Ephraim City people to feel like they can be involved there,” said Bolli.

The city argues the CUAC should be a place where amateur and local artists could show their work. Currently CUAC is about 33% local artists and about 66% national contemporary artists.

Bolli said, “We’ve had several artists that would love to show there, but because they didn’t show the right type of art, according to CUAC, they weren’t allowed to show there.”

The right type of art… That’s exactly why CUAC feels they were evicted and why they’ve filed the censorship case.

“We don’t feel that having concerns with the value of the art that we’re showing is a reason for us to be evicted,” said Shaw. “That’s why we feel it’s a violation of our First Amendment rights.”

The Central Utah Art Center is looking to stop the eviction and wants to be compensated for the damages caused when the City of Ephraim withdrew its funding.

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