January 18, 2009

Communist symbols lead to art protest

The owners of a building in Santa Ana, Calif., say they shut down an art exhibit that featured communist symbols after it drew a major art protest.

Jim Nichols, co-owner of the building that housed the controversial exhibit, said the decision was made to close down the art show after hundreds of former Vietnamese political refugees protested the site this weekend, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

We support the arts, Nichols said of Saturday's protest. But my gosh. Create a firestorm? That's not a good atmosphere for a corporate building.

Protesters, who defaced one of the artistic works with red paint, claim the works mock earlier Vietnamese generations who fled their homeland as communist forces took control during the Vietnam War.

The exhibit had been commissioned by the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association. Curators said the exhibit was meant to enhance freedom of expression in the area's Vietnamese community.

The exhibit's focus and use of communist symbols was particularly controversial given that it is taboo to speak of communism in the foreign community.

Nichols agreed that certain members of the Santa Ana Vietnamese community take such taboo violations seriously.

They have factions in their community that go after anyone who in any way seems to put a positive light on communism, he told the Times.