Kit Steinkellner
May 16, 2015 9:50 am

This past week, Westfield High School in New Jersey presented a fearless and unapologetic art exhibit to their community. The exhibit was entitled “Law Enforcement- Police Brutality” and contained hundreds of pieces from students across the Westfield Public School District. These pieces featured unarmed civilians being targeted and brutalized by the police.

“We submitted several different topics of our choice and finally narrowed them down to three – Law Enforcement- Police Brutality, Modern Technology Advances and Gender Equality,” student Kayla McMillan explained to NJ.com. “The students were allowed to choose either side of the arguments and were told they would not be in trouble for their own opinions.”

As TapInto reports, accompanied by each piece was an artist’s statement from the student creator.

“I am generally opposed to all forms of government control, and with the common occurrence of slaughtering innocents on the high-rise this was my prime reason to protest,” one student explained.

“The message that I am trying to convey is how some police officers have spilled the blood of many innocent people,” another student wrote.

The images from the show have since gone viral, causing controversy within the community. Many have taken to the school’s Facebook page to express their views.

“Disgusting that this school allows projects depicting false police brutality. Should be ashamed of yourself,” one Facebook user commented.

“Disgusted with your prejudicial so-called display of art that promotes violence by labeling police as brutalists,” another user wrote.

However, the support seemed to far outweigh the criticism, with many users writing in to praise the courage and conviction of the student artists.

“Thank you, WHS, for allowing freedom of expression . These students are addressing a legitimate issue! The fact that people want to silence them makes it all the more important!” one supporter wrote.

“Don’t apologize for the art piece. It’s great to stimulate that conversation in a nonviolent manner. Something needs to change in this country, we are headed down a dark path. Kudos!” another supporter commented.

“Thank you for creating an environment where students feel like they are able to express themselves. That is always important, but even more important in art,” yet another user stated.

Dr. Margaret Dolan, the district’s superintendent, issued a statement on Friday that included the following passage:

“The art project in question included drawings and captions depicting different viewpoints on a current controversial issue which was chosen by a small group of students. The teacher was attempting to encourage the students to look at more than one side of an issue.”

We are so glad these students are wrestling with this crucial issue and expressing themselves through their art. It’s scary to create something you know might garner a strong negative reaction, and we are deeply impressed with these students for taking on the challenge and standing up for their beliefs with their art.

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