During the past month, United Poultry Concerns, working with Animal Outreach of Kansas (www.animaloutreach-ks.org), has published 5 Action Alerts urging people to contact the Spencer Museum of Art and related institutions in Lawrence, KS to insist that an “art” project that these institutions were supporting, called “The Story of Chickens” by Amber Hansen, an artist-in-residence at the University of Kansas, be cancelled. To view these Alerts, see www.upc-online.org/alerts/.
As originally set forth, Amber’s project involved carting 5 chickens around town in a decorated coop in April, after which they would be slaughtered in a public ceremony, and eaten. Last week the City Attorney’s office informed Amber that her project was illegal within city limits. Today in response to our alert to their Kansas bureaus on Saturday, the Associated Press reported “Lawrence: No Chicken Slaughter for Art”: http://cjonline.com/news/2012-02-28/lawrence-no-chicken-slaughter-art.
Yesterday, Lawrence resident and Animal Outreach of Kansas activist Judy Carman and University of Kansas professor Elizabeth Schultz met with Amber Hansen to discuss the project. Here is Judy’s report on that meeting.
Meeting with Amber Hansen, her partner, Nicholas, Elizabeth Schultz and Judy Carman
2-27-12, 10:15 am to 1:15pm
Regarding Amber’s “The Story of Chickens.”
According to Amber at this time, there will be no chickens on display in public and no chickens publicly slaughtered as planned at the end of the event. This is great news and is largely a result of the laws in place preventing displaying on public property and killing in city limits, but I believe she has also been affected by all the letters, emails, postings, etc. that you all have sent as well.
She still plans to build the “coop” which, it turns out, is a large (approximately 12 feet long) enclosure with no floor. It is meant to be set on different grassy areas so that the chickens (had there been any) could forage. She needs to get permission from the city to display the empty coop in three different areas in town and plans to do so. She made the comment that the empty coop will be symbolic of the disconnection of urban spaces with animals.
March 30 marks the opening of her event. This will be a showing at the Percolator Gallery of the coop itself with no chickens in it. She is also inviting local artists to display animal related art, poetry, etc. that night at the Percolator. She is in the process of creating a submission form for artists who wish to display art. This Opening will be followed by her displaying the coop in several other public places without chickens in it.
April 21 will be the end of the event. On that evening she will host a Public Dialogue and a meal prepared by 4 chefs. I asked if one or more of the chefs could bring vegan dishes, and she agreed to one. She has funding for the food and can pay each chef up to $250.00. Of course, this means the other 3 chefs (friends of hers) will no doubt bring meat dishes and possibly even chicken, but there will be no public slaughter and no eating of chickens that were to be part of her original plan. We suggested that the meal be entirely vegan, of course, but she stated that her message is not to promote veganism but rather to get people thinking and realizing they have choices.
She will have speakers at this Dialogue. She asked both Beth [Elizabeth Schultz] and me to speak so that is great.
Amber grew up on a farm and participated in slaughtering animals. She said she doesn’t enjoy eating meat and tried to be veg but ended up being convinced she had to have meat to be healthy. Now she says she eats very little meat and only when she knows how the animal was raised. My feeling is that she was traumatized by the slaughtering in her childhood and is trying very hard to reconcile that disconnection within herself. She says most of her art involves animals.
She wants all the art at the opening night to be from local folks. So if you have any vegan artwork, writings, etc. to display, please consider sharing it at the opening event. However I am going to ask her if she would be willing to have some non-local artists display their vegan art.
Well there you have it. Hopefully, she won’t backtrack on us. I gave her a copy of my Peace to All Beings book, United Poultry Concerns literature and magazine Poultry Press, Farm Sanctuary literature, and a DVD containing Meet Your Meat, Egg Farm Investigation, and Bruce Friedrich’s Veganism in a Nutshell. She has seen Earthlings. She is also a fan of artist Sue Coe. Our next step will be working to get the galleries here to adopt a no live animals policy.
Thanks to everyone for all your hard work on this. This is such a great opportunity to raise consciousness and compassion for the animals. – Judy Carman
To learn more about protecting animals from exploitation as “art objects,” see the Justice for Animals Arts Guild Website at http://www.brittonclouse.com/jaag.htm. Established by Chicken Run Rescue director Mary Britton Clouse, JAAG exists to support artists whose art and actions advance the rights of animals and oppose the harm and exploitation of animals in the making of art. Mary has been an invaluable participant in this campaign to stop the use of chickens in Amber Hansen’s “Story of Chickens.” The real story of chickens here is about how artists, activists, scholars and caring people, in Lawrence, Kansas and around the world, have banded together for chickens and their right to be treated with compassion and respect.