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Best Common-Sense Defender of Art 

Sean Reilly
Public Information Officer, Overland Park

click to enlarge BOKC02.jpg

In our experience, spokesmen don't talk much more plainly than Overland Park PIO Sean Reilly has this year. And that's saying something because in two decades on the job, he probably hasn't had to face down another juggernaut like the tempest in a C cup caused by a piece of public art in the OP. "Accept or Reject," one of 11 sculptures donated to the city for a temporary exhibition at its arboretum, depicts a pair of exposed breasts being sexted by their headless owner. Artist Yu Chang's think-about-your-actions-in-our-digital-age message was always going to be lost on some people, but the forehead slapping got loud when one local woman aligned her offended-mommy act with a petition-happy religious group. (Please don't make us repeat their names, lest we accidentally summon them, Beetlejuice-style, to our office.) Reilly was ready. But after a patiently administered public response citing the First Amendment, he went further: "The statue does exactly what art is supposed to do. It's evoked a lot of emotion." Totally! To another outlet, he added: "The piece is saying, 'Focus on your mind, heart and soul. When we meet somebody, don't focus on that other stuff.'" Yes! The controversy is absurd, but it has brought out the art-appreciating best in Reilly. Suburbs of America, watch how this nonbureaucrat does his job.

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