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County resurrects art displays

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MONTICELLO, NY — Nearly a decade after artist Frank Kulon won a $40,000 award from Sullivan County after the county removed one of his paintings from the wall of the government center, county legislators have voted to start a new program to display artworks created by local artists and residents.

It’s called the Home Grown Artists program and will feature artworks by local artists and residents. The artworks will be chosen by an Artwork Exhibition Review Panel, appointed by the county manager and approved by the county legislature.

The plan at this point is to have the artwork rotated at least once a year. It may be sought not only from individuals, but also from organizations such as schools and arts organizations.

A document outlining the program says, “Due to the location and use of the Government Center building by individuals who vary greatly in age, interests and sensitivities, artwork which is profane or obscene shall not be considered for exhibition.”

It’s not clear if the painting that brought an end to the program about a decade ago would today be considered for exhibition. In 2003, Polish-born artist Frank Kulon had a painting on display at the government center in the early days of the Iraq War. The painting depicted three cherubs who were dropping a hand grenade on two Iraqi children.

Some officials, including then-county manager Dan Briggs and then-county attorney Ira Cohen, thought the painting was inappropriate for the venue, and after several complaints were lodged, it was removed from the wall.

Kulon, whose reputation spread after he painted pictures of various local public officials in various states of undress and in compromising situations, sued the county for infringing on his First Amendment rights, and he won the case.

The removal of the artwork sparked the resignation of Sandee Pointer, who up until that point had been running the art program, which was called the Robert E. Pointer Art Gallery.

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