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Thoughts on Concern Over Art Exhibits

February 27, 1988

W ritten in response to an article in Calendar on Sunday, Feb. 14, which reported that certain parents and school administrators were upset that students touring the Laguna and Newport Harbor art museums were seeing work the adults considered sexually explicit or thematically provocative.

As chairman of the Docent Council at Newport Harbor Art Museum, I want to thank you for your forthright and well-reasoned articles in Sunday's Calendar Section. You analyzed the very difficult problem of walking the line between censorship and sensitivity. We train our docents to walk that line, and I feel we have done the best job possible with a very difficult problem in "Skeptical Arts" (the exhibit that stirred the controversy). The council exists to help the public understand and appreciate contemporary art; no easy task! We are not there to tell the public what we personally like or don't like. There is a certain trust between docents and the exhibition curators that allows us to respect the museum's selection of exhibitions.

We work closely with the education deartment in developing the tours. As docents we realize the responsibility we have, not only to the museum but to the schools and, above all, the children. With some 70 active docents, we are able to provide small group tours that allow the children to question and be comfortable with the art.

Our tours are planned to make the children's museum trip a positive experience, where we open imaginations and teach art elements. The trip may be their first visit to any museum, and for many, they will never have another chance.

As I read the articles, I really felt you understood the museum, the schools and the docents. You obviously did a lot of research and thought. The articles gave a balanced view and the docents appreciate that approach.

JANE PENCE

Chairman

Docent Council

Newport Harbor Art Museum

Newport Beach

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