Art Display Draws Criticism - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Art Display Draws Criticism

Burlington, Vermont - September 4, 2007

For more than forty years, Glover's Bread and Puppet theater has turned its politics into performance, marching in protests and demonstrations the group says are aimed at effecting change for a better world. It is activism, some call it agitation.

Bread and Puppet's founder, Peter Schumann, also paints, and an exhibit of that work is planned for Friday and Saturday's South End Art Hop in Burlington. That exhibit is drawing fire for its handling of long-standing violence in the Middle East.

Schumann wasn't available for an on-camera interview, but told us over the phone that he visited the West Bank last year, and saw rubble and widespread unemployment that many Palestinians blame on Israel and the wall dividing them. While the self-described pacifist sees both nations as guilty of violence, he calls Israel an occupier, even instigator.

Rabbi Joshua Chasan of the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue in Burlington responds, "You've entered into an expression of hatred."

The rabbi hasn't seen the art. Neither has Channel 3. In fact, only a handful of people in Vermont have because it won't be installed on Pine Street until the end of the week. But based on reviews of when it showed in Boston, Chasan takes issue with the way Schumann uses images of the holocaust to comment on the contemporary violence between Israel and Palestine.

Chasan adds, "Peter is a very gifted artist. I have delighted in his art over the decades. I have marched behind his puppets. I think when you make the comparison between the Holocaust and what the Israelis are doing, you've gone across the edge."

Schumann says his work is not anti-Semitic, it merely reflects a viewpoint many Palestinians really hold. As for his use of Holocaust imagery, Schumann hopes people will hold off on judging the work until they see it. He'll even talk to people about it at a forum Saturday morning at eleven.

Carlos Haase, director of the South End Arts and Business Association which presents the Art Hop, says, "Here at SEABA and the Art Hop, we are strongly committed to the freedom of artistic expression. That is, we do not condemn or condone any artwork, and encourage people to come and see the artwork for themselves."

They can, when the Art Hop gets hopping Friday.

Schumann's show is sponsored by the group Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel. They see the Jewish state as leading a brutal invasion of Palestine. That is a charge Rabbi Chasan calls ridiculous. Chasan admits the wall in the West Bank has disrupted Palestinians' lives, but says it has saved countless Jews from continued violence.

Jack Thurston - WCAX News

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