Controversy Over Herberger's Art Exhibit Cancellation

September 04, 2013

"First Friday" has become a major event in Phoenix, when thousands head to galleries mostly in and around downtown to discover new artists and works or just have a good time. For some, First Friday has modified the perception of the Valley as being less than welcoming to non-traditional perspectives on art, but a disagreement between the Herberger Theatre Center and guest curator Robrt Pela, a longtime contributor to KJZZ, occured. Pela is now a gallery owner.

Pela’s exhibition, “Prime Example,” was scheduled to open at the Herberger Thursday, but it was canceled. A message on the Herberger’s Facebook page said the show would not go on because Pela had changed the list of artists too close to the opening date. The Herberger also said it was not censorship, despite some concerns about whether some of the material was acceptable for kids to see.

Social media has reacted negatively to the Herberger’s decision, and one artist has canceled an upcoming exhibit. Another has pulled paintings from an upcoming group show. Pela talked about the situation.

With an overview of the Valley’s art scene and public perception, we turn to Phoenix New Times’ art critic Kathleen Vanesian.