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Columbia Art Student's Flag Painting Shut Down

Art student forced to halt painting

By Georgia Evdoxiadis
[Columbia Chronicle, November 11, 2002, p. 3]

Police cite lack of permit and order stop to class project

Chicago police officers shut down an artistic exhibit on Nov. 8 by Columbia student Sonja Ljubinkovic due to "ordinance violations," according to Sgt. Robert Cargie of the Chicago Police Department.
Ljubinkovic and fellow art students Trace Johnson and Alan Garland set up an 18-foot-tall American flag and were intending to paint on its surface when police approached them at about 2:30 p.m. and demanded they take it down. The flag was stretched over a canvas and erected in Grant Park in front of the Torco building at 624 S. Michigan Ave.

Police presence in the Loop area was increased dramatically for expected anti-globalization protests on Nov. 7 and 8.

Cargie said painting in the area is against city ordinances. Leslie Kish, special events manager for the park district, said, "any structured event would require a permit." Permit rules posted on the Chicago Park District's website list an "event" as an activity that includes more than 50 people.

Ljubinkovic organized the painting for an assignment in her Time Arts class at Columbia. She said she called the Chicago Park District to request a permit, and was told she would not need one. Ljubinkovic said she wrote up a proposal anyway, and when officers showed up, she said one had a copy of the request in his hand.

"It was a very debatable topic, but they would not debate," Ljubinkovic said.

Ljubinkovic estimated that she spent $400 on the project. She purchased paint and brushes and tarp-like material to work on. She also sent out flyers to media organizations advertising the painting. Johnson promoted the exhibit through [sic] [], and sent out e-mail invitations. They had planned to paint until 8 p.m. and began setting up the canvas at I p.m.

"The concept behind this particular piece makes the public space an imperative element," Ljubinkovic said in a press release. "The process is more important than the finalized art project."

A photographer from the Chicago Tribune came to take pictures of the exhibit, but arrived after the students had taken down the piece.

Johnson said he spoke with District Cmdr. John Risley, one of the officers who approached them, and asked to see the ordinance that they where in violation of. Johnson said Risley told him that he could see the ordinance in jail, if he wanted to.

Johnson also said Risley told them that they could not get a permit for any event in the Grant Park area because of the riots in August of 1968. Demonstrations during the '68 Democratic National Convention turned violent and 641 people were arrested as a result.

"Any event has to be in an approved part of Grant Park," Kish said. Kish said that getting a permit starts with the petitioner submitting a "letter of intent" to the park district, after which the city will determine the cost of renting the space.



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