Highland Park High School Censors and Disinvites Group of Alumni Artists from FOCUS on the Arts

Pertinent background information (including The Comic Thread [TCT]’s account of its disinvitation, press clippings, media clips, and the FOCUS on the Arts [FOCUS] Artist’s Agreement) can all be found online at www.BitterJester.com/tct

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STATEMENT OF PROTEST

I have read TCT’s account of its “disinvitation” from FOCUS 2007 and if true, I strongly disagree with the HPHS administration’s and FOCUS 2007 coordinators' decision to remove TCT from the lineup of FOCUS presenters and performers for the following reasons:

1. It is unbecoming of HPHS to treat any alumni in the manner it treated its six writer-performer alumni involved in TCT’s FOCUS presentation this year.  This decision sends the wrong message not only to alumni as a whole and to all artists invited to participate in FOCUS, but to the future alumni (and artists) who currently attend HPHS.

2. Given: A) the list of other presenters who are officially slated to appear at FOCUS this year (and who are therefore not considered “questionable”); B) the descriptions of TCT’s material that have appeared in the press; and C) the groundwork set by the agreement all FOCUS presenters have signed, I do not believe that TCT’s material would be “inappropriate” for FOCUS or its audiences.  It does not appear that TCT broke any rules and it seems that the administration and FOCUS coordinators have not provided consistent logical reasoning in support of TCT’s “disinvitation.”  Most notably, if TCT’s material is “inappropriate,” then there is a failure to account for why an invitation was extended in 2006 to this year’s FOCUS event, given that TCT’s content, style, and written material had been established during four previous engagements at HPHS.

3. Extending an open invitation to a longtime alumni FOCUS presenter like TCT and to then apply rigorous scrutiny and artistic micromanagement only to TCT is puzzling and appears contrary to the aims of an event that purportedly ‘focuses’ on art and artistic expression.

4. The actions of HPHS, its administration, and the FOCUS 2007 event coordinators in this matter are inconsistent with FOCUS’ published mission statement and advertised testimony that “In all cases, FOCUS encourages students to step outside their comfort zone.” To ignore such a claim when it is put to the test by a group such as TCT (or any artist) implies that it lacks substance and sincerity as a descriptive statement.

5. Most troubling of all, I firmly believe that this move on the part of the HPHS administration and FOCUS event coordinators to censor and then disinvite TCT sets an unhealthy precedent not only for FOCUS but for any artist who participates in it. In addition, it sets a poor example to the current student body about how HPHS treats its artists and alumni.

I would like to reiterate my disagreement, disappointment, and dissatisfaction with the decision to remove TCT from the lineup of FOCUS presenters this year.  To invite an artist or group of artists based on the merits of their art, only to later un-invite the same artist or group is disingenuous and deserves a better and public explanation.  Local and “unknown” artists deserve the same level of respect and treatment from the FOCUS committee and HPHS administration that is given to nationally-known artists and large media companies and organizations.  To discriminate between local artists and those with wider name recognition seems only to imply that fame, wealth and publicity assume the greatest importance when it comes to deciding which art gets exposure at FOCUS.
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