Racism or art? Controversial sign at Tempe gallery attracts vand - Tucson News Now

Racism or art? Controversial sign at Tempe gallery attracts vandalism

TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A controversial sign at a Tempe art gallery is making a lot of people angry, attracting threats and vandalism.

In transparent silver lettering, the sign reads “We serve white’s [sic] only. No Spanish or Mexicans.”

Only, it's not the business' guest policy. Instead, owners say it's an art piece.

"I saw it this morning on Facebook and I was kind of shocked,” said gallery visitor Monica Martinez.

If this sign makes you feel uncomfortable, it's supposed to.

"This a piece by Daniel Ruanova,” explained Fine Art Complex 1101 director Grant Vetter.

The message, appearing to support segregation, inside is actually a statement on race relations.

"There are a lot of these signs still in border towns today, and he wanted to bring it up here to let people know that's still a part of American culture now," said Vetter.

Inside, even more controversial, are political works.

The exhibit has been up for a month. Right away it started getting people's attention.

“We've had people out here breaking bottles. We've had phone calls and threats made against the people that work here and myself," said Vetter.

The side of the building was vandalized with a line of white spray paint. And the sign itself has been spit on.

The artist found himself eventually posting a disclaimer below, explaining the piece.

"The reactions have been varied a lot,” said Vetter. “People often misread the sign on the window as being reflective on general institutional view, or our institution as a business. And of course, it’s not."

"I think that if it makes you think then it's working. And if it opens the door to a conversation, then it's working," said Martinez.

The exhibit is open for one more week. 

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Lauren ReimerLauren Reimer joined the 3TV/CBS 5 family in June 2016. She is originally from Racine, WI but is no stranger to our heat.

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Lauren Reimer

She previously worked for KVOA in Tucson, covering topics that matter to Arizonans including the monsoon, wildfires and border issues. During the child migrant crisis of 2014, Reimer was one of only a handful of journalists given access to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Nogales, where hundreds of unaccompanied children were being held after crossing into the U.S. from Central America. Before that, Reimer worked at WREX in Rockford, IL. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and still visits home often. When not chasing news stories, Reimer loves to explore, enjoying everything from trying new adventurous foods to visiting state and national parks or local places of historical significance.

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