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Greenville County Could Cut Money from Group Over Naked Statues

Wings of the City
Visit Greenville

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Officials in South Carolina's most populous county may cut money to a community group after complaints about an art exhibit of nude statues.

Local news outlets report the Greenville County Council's Finance Committee voted last week to strip $7,500 from the Hispanic Alliance of South Carolina.

The full county council is supposed to consider the matter Tuesday.

The alliance is sponsoring the “Wings of the City” exhibit, which opened April 1. Most of the statues are outside in downtown Greenville's Falls Park, while the most anatomically detailed statue, called “Hombre Universal” is inside the Peace Center for Performing Arts.

The city of Greenville is backing the exhibit, saying it's drawing visitors and positive press.

“While these sculptures may differ from the public art that Greenvillians have seen on display in the past, the city is proud of its strong partnership with the Hispanic Alliance and is honored to have been chosen to host this world-renowned exhibition,” the news release said.

But some county officials and residents say the nudity is offensive.

“If these were actual people they would be arrested immediately. This is exposing us to nakedness without our consent. It is sexual harassment," Susana Saravia told the Greenville City Council last week.

County Council member Stan Tzouvelekas called for the artwork to be taken down.

“I don’t think it’s family friendly. It’s demonic,” he told the Greenville News. “I don’t want my kids to see it.”

The city’s Arts in Public Places Commission recommended the exhibit to the city. Corporate sponsors are paying for much of the cost.

“This actually adds to the beauty and the prosperity of our community.” Hispanic Alliance Executive Director Adela Mendoza told WYFF-TV. “The money that we would receive through the accommodation tax dollars will allow us to bring tourism to Greenville. Those monies are to be used to promote the exhibit outside of Greenville.”

The traveling exhibit has been displayed in cities in the United States and Mexico since 2013 and is supposed to remain on display in Greenville until October. Created by Mexican artist Jorge Marin, the sculptures were offered to Greenville by the Mexican government.

County Council member Joe Dill said he voted against spending the lodging tax money because he feels it's improper to give money to the Hispanic Alliance only to have the group give the money to others. He also said he doesn't believe the statues are attracting visitors from out of town.

Petitions for and against the statues have been created.