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Greenville County Council Rejects Grant to Promote Sculpture Exhibit

Wings of the City
Visit Greenville

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — A county council in South Carolina has decided not to give the state’s Hispanic Alliance a grant to market a temporary art installation praised by some as culturally enriching but decried by others as pornographic.

The Greenville County Council on Tuesday voted against awarding the group $7,500 from tourism tax dollars to promote “Wings of the City,” a nine-sculpture exhibit by Mexican artist Jorge Marín, news outlets reported. Most of the bronze, lifelike statues are of men wearing only wings or beak masks. According to an online petition calling for the removal of the statues, genitals are “clearly defined” on one of the statues.

Greenville is the first city east of the Mississippi River to host Marín’s exhibit, which has been previously displayed in California, Colorado and Texas, according to The Greenville News. It opened in April and will run through October.

The diversion of the grant will not affect the installation’s presence in the city — only the marketing of it by the Hispanic Alliance, which hoped to bring visitors from all over to see the artwork.

Tuesday night’s vote followed weeks of debate within the community and a polarized public comment period at the council meeting.

Simpsonville resident Barbara Gibbs said family-oriented art should be promoted instead, according to The Post and Courier, and that the county should support Christian and Southern values.

“We don’t want demonic stuff,” Gibbs said. “We are not New York and we are not L.A. and we don’t want to be.”

Carolyn Watson, a retired Furman University art history professor, described one of the statues as an “avatar of a bloodthirsty deity.”

Greenville resident and Hispanic Alliance board chair Ellen Stevenson said the installation is “world-class public art” that promotes a conversation in the community, The State reported.

The sculptures evoke freedom and diversity, Francisco Sanchez of the Hispanic Alliance board of directors said. He called the council’s withdrawal of financial support “government censorship,” according to the newspaper.

While council member Liz Seman said the panel risked becoming entangled in art curation — which she called too “in the weeds” for a council decision — she ultimately voiced support for the allocation, The Post and Courier reported.

Council member Dan Tripp disagreed. Seven others joined him in rejecting the Hispanic Alliance grant, and three members supported it alongside Seman.

“I don’t think we should be curators of public art,” Tripp said, “but I think there are times as council members that we need to stand up and represent those who have a different view.”