By Susan Reimer, The Baltimore Sun
10:14 PM EDT, May 7, 2013
An exhibit at the Johns Hopkins Evergreen House that was thrown into doubt this week is back on, but without two artworks at the crux of a dispute between the artist and the curator.
The two large pieces in question — one depicting a cross, the other a mosaic of the word "Jew" — were offered as part of an outdoor exhibit by Fells Point artist Loring Cornish called "In Each Other's Shoes," to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington.
A Hopkins spokesman says the last-minute inclusion of the pieces would have inflated the exhibit's cost. Cornish has said that Evergreen curator James Abbott didn't want to include religious-themed works. Over the course of just a few days, the exhibit was canceled, then postponed, then returned back to Sunday.
"They're going to do their best to get it opened as scheduled," said Brian Shields, a Hopkins spokesman. "The plan is that it's going to go on as originally planned. The timing will probably be tight, given that there's been such back-and-forth over the last few days."
The dispute began when Abbott objected to the pieces, two of 12 Cornish wanted to include in the four-month-long exhibition. Cornish sent an email Friday asking to meet with Abbott's superiors and the show's donors to discuss the inclusion of the two works. Abbott responded with an email to one of the show's supporters, saying it was canceled.
"I regret that Evergreen is going to have to bow away from exhibiting Loring's artwork," Abbott wrote in the email, which Cornish provided to The Sun and Shields confirmed. "We are sorry that this had to happen, but the Museum cannot accommodate Loring's wish."
Abbott did not respond to emails or phone calls from The Baltimore Sun.
On Monday, Cornish had sent emails to the media and members of the Hopkins community asking for their support.
"This is the only exhibition in the tri-state area that will honor the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington," Cornish wrote in his plea for support. "Will you help this show go on."
Cornish and Winston Tabb, dean of libraries, exchanged emails Monday but were unable to meet Monday or Tuesday. The artist asked if the two could meet next Monday, which would keep the show from opening Sunday.
"The situation remains fluid," Tabb wrote in an email to The Sun on Tuesday, "but I'm very optimistic we will be able to make progress when we able to talk. Mr Cornish and I keep missing each other."
Meanwhile Tuesday, Cornish received an emailed apology from Abbott.
"I want to take this opportunity to apologize for any distress I may have caused you over these past few days," said the email from Abbott, which Cornish provided to The Sun; Shields confirmed that there was an apology.
By Tuesday night, the exhibit was back on schedule, according to Shields and an email from Cornish.
"Loring did get in touch with Winston," Shields said. "He said, 'Let's go with this. Let's go with the show as originally planned.'"
Shields said the two artworks were not part of the original exhibit plan.
"It wasn't about the pieces themselves. It's about they originally agreed to 10 pieces. Then the artist wanted to add two," he said. "The curator had said, 'It's late in the game to be doing this. We can't add these two. It will incur a cost. We don't have the money to do this.'"
Cornish did not respond to an email and a voicemail Tuesday night. Previously, he had said the inclusion of the cross and the mosaic of the word "Jew" were an important part of the exhibition because King was a minister and mentioned the persecution of the Jews in his Washington speech. Also, he said, as a youngster the charity of Jewish grocers played an important part in his family's survival.
"I have literally ripped my show apart to give you what you requested," Cornish wrote to Abbott. "However on the matter of these two works I'm strongly requesting that they are included."
"Separating the cross from Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," Cornish wrote to Abbott, "is as removing the shell from the tortoise."
Baltimore Sun reporter Anne Tallent contributed to this article.
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