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On November 11th, our community will be invited to come together at the StutzArtSpace for a Spirit & Place Festival event where we will all be looking at, socializing around, and discussing in detail... "Wait! 'Nudes', you say? Oh, heavens and jeepers, I couldn't possibly... [blush]"

The name - "Unclothed: Exposing the Art Nude" - may be provocative to many preconceived Midwestern standards. However, if past presentations on what place the artistic nude in the public sphere are any indication, most attendees will not be shocked or offended,  and most will appreciate the sensibilities of the curation and lack of confrontational attitude about it. It won't be for everyone, mind you, but we hope that is a matter of taste rather than morals.

The philosophy behind this art exhibition (and the moderated panel discussion accompanying it) is simple: There is a perception that the artistic representation of the nude is not acceptable without limiting access or warning labels, and terms such as "community standards" and "family values" are used to cite why. There is not a formal moment when these community citizens are defined. In an admittedly pro-arts agenda, we are putting forward the best work in the gallery - representing the human figure that our own community produces, with respectful and tasteful sensibilities guiding our hand.

Travis DiNicola (of IndyReads and WFYI's "Art of the Matter" program) is hosting a balanced and open panel discussion on the topic as a companion to the presentations. During this forum, we have invited people from the arts, media, and education to discuss the challenges they face in balancing the needs of the arts with the demands of being responsible to the community they serve. We want to involve people who have opinions that counter the basic progressive artist's point of view - that "there is nothing wrong with the nude human body in art".

Our challenges have been many, especially given that we do not have a well-defined and organized "Citizens for Values" group that routinely protests galleries or shouts event proposals down. But, officials, business owners, and artists all seem to react as though such a group does exist. People tend to avoid shows and discussions that they know will contain objectionable content, so the issue remains quiet and passive, but still very real and influential. While larger art-related debates regarding sociopolitical topics such as Fred Wilson's sculpture on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail smolder in the press and in meetings, people seem to believe that nudity in new public art (or art that is accessible to the casual passerby or patron) is adequately addressed and mostly repressed, and artists seem content to self-censor to avoid stirring up issues with venue directors, or devoting time to pieces that lack viability in this sometimes-conservative market.

Our program is intended to reduce the fear that both sides of the issue have regarding this type of artistic work, and to help people decide for themselves what is appropriate. It is also designed to inform the public, because many people don't understand the complex factors each side faces in the decisions they must make. It is our hope that through a fair presentation of the issue, an understanding of the the different sides can be reached, and we can open up more opportunities for artists (and for dialogue within the community) - where arts can become a greater part of our cityscape. We at the Stutz Artists Association hope that regardless of any hesitations, you will come participate in the discussion and bring your own story to the forum. We hope students come, that parents bring their children, and that people from all walks and opinions come to articulate their viewpoints and represent the entire Central Indiana community. Everyone from the avid collector to the concerned citizen is welcome and invited.

So, what is your opinion? 
Travis S. Little