Amy Werbel, professor of History of Art, has completed her term as a non-resident fellow at the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement with a report on freedom of expression in academic museums and galleries.
During her 2021-2022 fellowship term, Werbel analyzed art censorship controversies in campus spaces. For her report, “We all want to talk about this”: A Study of Freedom of Artistic Expression in Academic Art Museums and Galleries, Werbel spoke at length with 25 decision-makers across a range of institutions whose primary role was choosing art for exhibition; she also conducted questionnaires with 92 others.
“Exhibiting provocative work clearly carries pedagogical rewards, as well as personal, professional, and institutional risks,” the report finds. The research examines the tension between, on one hand, the role of an art institution as a space for difficult conversations that can’t be held in other campus contexts, and, on the other, the tendency of exhibitions on controversial topics to create animosity and protest. It concludes with a series of best practices to strengthen freedom of expression in on-campus galleries and museums.
The report is available here.