Government & Politics

Controversial flag removed at KU is flying in KC Crossroads

A German artist’s creation of an American flag adorned with a black drip-paint image of a fractured United States was removed from the University of Kansas in the midst of Kansas Republican pushback.

Forty miles away on the Missouri side, another copy of artist Josephine Meckseper’s “United (Flag 2)” flies at the Mid-America Arts Alliance in the Crossroads. The Kansas City arts organization, a spokesperson said, hasn’t heard any outrage.

The flag is part of a larger art series called “Pledges of Allegiance.” New York-based arts group Creative Time commissioned 16 artists, including Meckseper, to create a flag that “points to an issue the artist is passionate about.”

The flags have been on display in rotation at more than a dozen locations, including the flagpole outside KU’s Spooner Hall, since November. Meckseper’s is the last in the series, and is expected to be displayed until July 31.

Mid-America Arts Alliance marketing director Margaret Keough said the regional organization was “proud” to participate in the project and has displayed eight flags since joining “Pledges of Allegiance” earlier this year. The series aims to promote civic discourse, she said.

“It’s really been a beautiful project going along since February,” Keough said. “It’s interesting that with the final flag now people are becoming aware of it.”

The flag was taken down at KU and moved to an indoor exhibit at KU’s Spencer Museum of Art on Wednesday after Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer and other Republicans called it disrespectful. Free speech groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, have since decried the decision as “censorship.”

Meckseper wrote about what she hoped her flag represented on the Creative Time website.

“The flag is a collage of an American flag and one of my dripped paintings which resembles the contours of the United States,” she wrote, “I divided the shape of the country in two for the flag design to reflect a deeply polarized country in which a president has openly bragged about harassing women and is withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol and UN Human Rights Council.

She said the black and white sock depicted on the flag takes on “new symbolic meaning” since children attempting to enter the United States have been “imprisoned” at the border.

“Let’s not forget that we all came from somewhere and are only recent occupants of this country – native cultures knew to took care of this continent much better for thousands of years before us,” she said. “It’s about time for our differences to unite us rather than divide us.”

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“Untitled 2017 (fear eats the soul) (white flag)” by Rirkrit Tiravanija was displayed at the Mid-America Arts Alliance building in the KC Crossroads as part of the “Pledges of Allegiance” public arts project. Courtesy of the Mid-America Arts Alliance

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“Diaspora Cloud” by artist Vik Muniz was displayed earlier this year at the Mid-America Arts Alliance building in the KC Crossroads as part of the “Pledges of Allegiance” public art project. Courtesy of the Mid-America Arts Alliance
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