NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - A New Orleans community is divided all over a piece of art created by a suburban high school student.
The 17-year-old submitted a painting for a weekend art exhibit at Oakwood Center which depicted police brutality and abuse of power.
The poster size image features a police officer gripping a baton in the foreground and hands up black figures in the background with the words, “Join the force and get away with murder."
School officials removed the painting from the exhibit after getting several complaints.
“Who needs to hear that? It just seems so disrespectful,” says Alan Gutierrez. “I feel bad for any police that have to see that. And I feel bad for the police in his community.”
Chris Jones saw the painting at the exhibit and was so outraged he took a picture. He wrote on WGNO’s Facebook page, “This is disgusting, and I challenge anyone who wants to call this art.”
Jones's photo has gone viral.
But artists in the French Quarter say the student's message needs to be heard.
“The shock factor is the fact that he said it so boldly,” says French Quarter artist Danny DeLancey. “He made a bold statement at seventeen years old. A lot of people don’t have the courage to do that.”
“Let’s say he’s in an environment where that’s what he’s being exposed to,” says DeLancey. “And that’s his opinion. I don’t think anyone should hush him.”
“Us as artists, we can create whatever we feel needs to be heard,” says Becca Bryant who points to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution for guidance. “It’s the same thing as saying it but it’s on a canvas.”
Jefferson Parish councilman Chris Roberts took to Facebook writing, "If we continue to label an entire profession with such hatred and ridicule then this entire nation will end up like NOPD struggling to fill its force to protect their community.”
“It’s a shame,” says Gutierrez. “Because there’s a lot of great police out there. He’s just a kid repeating stuff that he’s hearing on the internet.”
“Maybe that’s a message to the society we live in that something’s not right,” says DeLancey.