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Escondido art exhibit sparks controversy

Some people believe it goes too far and others fear that taking the art down is the wrong move.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — An art exhibit in the North County is sparking a heated debate. It's over a piece put on display at the California Center for the Arts (CCAE) in Escondido. Some are calling for its removal -- others are defending it as a First Amendment right.

The piece was part of an exhibit meant to highlight street art. However, as art often does, it created a wave of differing opinions.

It's a photo of cops in riot gear with dancing pig statues underneath. The letters A.P.A.B. are spray painted on the photograph. That stands for a slur used against police officers -- (All Pigs Are Bastards).

The artist that created the piece is Richard Wyrgatsch II, otherwise known as OG Slick. He's based out of Los Angeles. CBS 8 reached out to him, but we haven't heard back. 

The art created quite a stir on social media, especially in the Facebook group Escondido Friends. 

Some people believe it goes too far and others fear that taking the art down is the wrong move. 

Escondido City Council held a meeting Tuesday night to discuss the piece and review the relationship and funding with CCAE. The city owns the building and as Mayor Paul McNamara noted, funds about $3 million a year towards operations.

"We subsidize roughly $3 million a year and after this recent incident, and in my opinion, the tone deafness of it – I think we have a responsibility as a council to at least talk about this management relationship," Mayor McNamara said.

CCAE issues the following statement on behalf of Sara Matta, Chair of the CCAE Board of Trustees:

“The CCAE Board of Trustees today convened a special meeting to explore questions that have surfaced about one installation featured in our new exhibition, Street Legacy: SoCal Style Masters. The exhibition features aspects of graffiti, street art, skateboarding, surfing, tattoos, hip hop, breaking, punk, lowriders and custom culture. Since opening last Friday, the exhibition has received an overwhelmingly positive response, although one installation has sparked passionate dialogue. As a community-serving organization, CCAE has the opportunity to embrace and reflect diverse community viewpoints and bring people together to discover, create and celebrate the visual and performing arts. Given this responsibility, the Board today met to consider the range of public comments as well as the perspectives of the exhibition curators and artists. The Board voted to continue CCAE’s support of the Street Legacy: SoCal Style Masters exhibition and of the installation in question without removing, covering or otherwise editing it. In conjunction, the Board also committed that CCAE will take a leadership role in brokering private and public discussions among the exhibit curators, artists, City leaders, community groups and others to further public education and foster the respectful exchange of ideas. As these plans are finalized, we will make announcements about ways the public can participate.”

Dr. Jim Daichendt, who's one of the curators of Street Legacy: SoCal Style Masters, sent the following statement to CBS 8 in response to the reaction to the piece on display:

"As curators of "Street Legacy: SoCal Style Masters" at the California Center for the Arts (CCAE), we are committed to facilitating conversations about artworks and the steps required for deeper scrutiny and meaningful dialogue. Too often, we look without enough reflection and certainly without considering viewpoints outside our own. The CCAE just introduced a set of perspectives from artists who have not previously been invited inside its walls. Many of these artists use the visual arts to explore ideas around their own culture, upbringing, work, and daily experiences. Sometimes this involves abuse of power, marginalization, and firsthand experiences with racism. None of these ideas are easy to talk about but the art provides an opportunity for this community conversation to take place. Censorship of an image or idea that does not correspond with our own personal view is a dangerous practice. In this case, censoring Slick’s artwork demonstrates that one perspective in the community is more important and powerful than another."

WATCH RELATED: Spray painting is not a crime at Alley Art Wall in Carlsbad (Jun 27, 2022)


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