CLIFTON PARK — A piece of art — created by a local student — that bashed the president of the United States has been pushed into the national spotlight.
The piece was displayed during student-driven art show at Shenendehowa High School. It consisted of at least 12 identical black-and-white pictures of Donald Trump. There was also a sign above the pictures that read, “Draw on Me.” Using markers from the art classroom, some students opted to scribble critical messages and profanities on the pictures.
The artwork was brought to the attention of Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, who wrote about it on the Fox News website. In his post, he claimed the artwork had been up for days, which the district said is not true. By Tuesday afternoon, Starnes had also taken note of and criticized Shen for recently providing Muslim students with a spare classroom in which to pray during Ramadan.
District spokeswoman Kelly DeFeciani explained that, periodically, the district hosts student-driven art shows. The Trump piece was featured during one of those shows — on May 25 — and was taken down immediately after High School Principal Don Flynt noticed it. Flynt then spoke to the artist and students at the art show to inform them that the profanities written on the piece were a violation of the district’s code of conduct.
Though the piece became inappropriate and the district didn’t condone it, the original art itself did not warrant disciplinary action, DeFeciani said. The district is not searching for students who might have contributed to the messages written on the pictures.
“It is important to note that the artwork and the sign are not a violation of the code of conduct,” said Flynt in a prepared statement. “If the graffiti said positive things, it wouldn’t be a violation.
“What is against our code of conduct is the ‘use of language or gestures, or actions that are obscene, profane, perverse, overtly sexual, lewd, lascivious, indecent, vulgar or abusive.’”
Board of Education President Robert Pressly said Tuesday that the district has been handling the issue well and has been transparent.
“I’m confident that the district will resolve this,” he said.
Renee Mertens of The Saratoga County Education Awareness Committee, a group of concerned parents and citizens in Saratoga County, said that whether or not a person voted for Trump should not matter. She said that everyone should be respectful of the office of the president.
“I think it’s abhorrent. It’s not educational,” she said of the art. ”We need to take our schools back so they can become education systems again, not indoctrination systems. We have to show respect for the office, and we can have our differences, but this is just wrong.”
Mertens said there is an underground art museum at Shen — formed a year ago by students — called the Shenendehowa Underground Museum of Art (SUMoA). Commenting on the district website, an anonymous poster claiming to be an art student at the school explained that the Trump piece had been a part of the student-run exhibit hosted by SUMoA. That show was separate from the district art show.
The poster added that the artist had not intended for people to write all over the Trump piece, and that it was unacceptable that the work had been defaced.
The incident marks the second time a Saratoga County school district has been featured on Fox News due to perceived anti-Trump sentiment. In March, two Saratoga Springs parents representing a local group called Conservative Chicks appeared on “Fox & Friends” to condemn a history teacher at the city school district who used political cartoons that compared Trump to Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini during a lesson on World War II.