May 18, 2024

Beauty Arts

The Arts Authority

Art gallery controversy at Macalester causes temporary closure

Art gallery controversy at Macalester causes temporary closure

A Macalester College art exhibit reopened Monday after a brief closure to address concerns from Muslim students.

It’s the second time in recent months that Muslim students at private liberal arts colleges in St. Paul have raised objections to art displayed on their campus. Both artists, born 700 years apart, have roots in Persian culture. At Hamline University, a student objected to a medieval painting of the Prophet Muhammad; at Macalester, students criticized contemporary depictions of Muslim women.

But the dispute at Macalester, an elite college with a focus on internationalism, has so far played out differently than a similar controversy at Hamline, a mile-and-a-half away.

Hamline made national headlines after a Muslim student objected to a 14th-century manuscript depicting the Prophet shown during an art history class. The professor, Erika López Prater, had provided verbal and written content warnings for Muslim students. Hamline chose not to renew her contract, sparking an outcry from academic-freedom advocates at Hamline and around the country. University administrators publicly labeled the professor’s actions Islamophobic. The professor sued the university for defamation and breach of contract. Hamline professors voted overwhelmingly to ask the university president to resign.