Artist Shuts Down Flag Exhibit at CalArts

Times Staff Writer

A controversial art exhibit of the American flag was closed Tuesday at CalArts in reaction to protests and vandalism by people inside and outside the school.

The exhibit had featured a flag draped across the floor and had ignited angry debate at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.

CalArts staff members protested the artwork with a counter-exhibit, and students placed derogatory signs beside the piece. The Newhall American Legion chapter picketed, and Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies advised school officials that the display might be breaking federal and state laws.

But the final blow came Monday night when two men took the flag and turned it in at the Santa Clarita sheriff’s station. The men were questioned and released pending filing of a criminal complaint. The flag was held as evidence.


“As a member of the military, I felt it was not only my right, but my responsibility to do what I did,” said John Callaway, 22, of Canyon Country, one of the men who took the flag. Callaway said he is an Army veteran.

Adam Greene, the student who created the exhibit, removed most of what was left of the exhibit Tuesday--in effect closing it. College administrators said he told them that he did not intend to reopen it.

Greene’s piece was meant as a show of support for a similar exhibit that had led to protests in Chicago. Both artworks included a flag on the floor with a ledger in which visitors could write comments. Both exhibits made it difficult to write in the book without stepping on the flag.

While the Chicago exhibit remains open, Tuesday’s closing at CalArts pleased the American Legion Post 507 in Newhall.


“We were upset that a young man would take it upon himself to offend a nation of freedom-loving people,” said ArmieCQ Trujillo, the post commander who led the picketing.

CalArts officials reacted calmly to the protests, but were angry about the taking of the flag.

“It was a case of coming onto private property and violating an art piece,” said John Orders, assistant to the president. “It was appalling.”

Orders said CalArts is not planning to file a criminal complaint.