From remarks by Garland Wright, artistic director of The Guthrie Theater, at the annual board meeting, June 25:

For I now know to stand here and say to you that Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs are, to me, authentic and powerful artistic challenges is to risk losing any dignity I might have in your eyes. It is to risk siding with someone who has been labeled a homosexual pedophile and an obscene pornographer. I have been robbed of my freedom to express my opinion without punitive damages -- in this case the dismantling of the NEA. The loss is real to me.

It is the central premise of making art that truth has a face, and that the face must be shown, pretty or ugly, it cannot be ignored. So as an artist I want to tell you the truth: our rights of freedom of experience and expression are precisely what is under attack. And these rights have already been undermined and diminished. For me, this is no longer about art and artists, it is about the basic values of a society.

It is too early perhaps to talk of what a world would be like that not only tolerates but embraces difference. To do so may be to try and jump past the difficult and painful truths we must face in ourselves and our society which breed and perpetuate intolerance. But it is not too early, in fact, it is upon us and quickly passing, to demand that the basic freedoms of belief upon which our way of life was constituted be reiterated and strengthened in our hearts and minds, and not given away in little incremental gestures of neglect and convenience. For only a world which cherishes and insists upon those freedoms can ever hope to reconstruct a society based on tolerance and respect.