Statement of the Puffin Foundation on the City at the Crossroads of History Mural by Mike Alewitz
March 27, 2014
Statement of the Puffin Foundation
The City at the Crossroads of History Mural
And the Museum of the City of New York
February 10, 2015
The Puffin Foundation is a proud supporter of artistic freedom. One of the many artworks we have funded is the mural The City at the Crossroads of History by Mike Alewitz.
We strongly support the right of the Museum of the city of of New York to decide what artwork should grace its walls. We recognize that the vitally important concept of freedom of expression also applies to our nation’s cultural institutions. While we endowed the Puffin Foundation Gallery for Social Activism at the Museum, the content is controlled by the museum (please see attached statement from the museum.) We hope all New Yorkers will visit this extraordinary gallery devoted to portraying the vibrant and diverse history of activism in our great city.
Each year, the Foundation awards hundreds of grants to artists across the country, many of whom have difficulty finding funding due to the content of their work. We’re proud to support them. It is our wish that all these projects see the light of day. We sincerely hope that Mr. Alewitz is able to secure an appropriate exhibition space for his work.
The Puffin Foundation Ltd. has sought to open the doors of artistic expression by providing grants to artists and art organizations who are often excluded from mainstream opportunities due to their race, gender, or social philosophy. Why the Puffin? The Puffin, once endangered in the northeastern United States, was returned to its native habitats through the efforts of a concerned citizenry. Our name is a metaphor for how we perceive our mission in the arts: to join with other concerned groups and individuals to ensure that the arts not merely survive, but flourish at all levels of our society.
Perry Rosenstein Gladys Rosenstein Neal Rosenstein
President Executive Director Vice President
From Susan Henshaw Jones, the director of the Museum of the City of New York.
The Museum of the City of New York is proud and privileged to be the premier institution devoted to the history of the five boroughs of New York. Founded in 1923, our passion is to educate the public about the distinctive character of the city, embracing the past, the present, and looking to the future.
Every museum is responsible for curating the content that it presents in its galleries. It is a cardinal principle of its institutional independence that no artist, donor, government official, or other outside party can compel a museum to exhibit material.
As a history museum rather than an art museum, the Museum of the City of New York regularly selects to exhibit works based on their ability to illuminate specific histories. In this case, the Museum of the City of New York made the determination that the mural by Mike Alewitz did not meet the curatorial standards or purposes of the museum, and exercised its prerogative and indeed its professional responsibility.
It is simply incorrect to assert that the museum director stepped in to deny the installation of this mural; it was commissioned by the Puffin Foundation, not the museum, and the museum never promised to install the work.
To assert that the museum is engaging in ‘censorship’ is quite wrong and deeply offensive to our institution and those who work hard to maintain its excellent reputation. We carefully consider each piece that is included in our respected collection. Our decision not to install a piece that is inconsistent with our mission is nothing less than what those who visit and support the museum, and who value our professionalism and integrity, would expect of us.
We are disappointed that Mr. Alewitz has chosen to express his views as he has done. But while the Museum of the City of New York is not the appropriate venue for this mural, we applaud creativity and trust that Mr. Alewitz will find a suitable home for his work.
Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029