Yes, but is it art?

Last weekend, the Fremont Arts Council (FAC) held an enthusiastic and energetic parade to celebrate the solstice - and Fremont survived.

I'd feared the coming of this year's parade as the date loomed and I heard murmurs about the potential content: people being hung by hooks? PURE (People Undergoing Real Experiences) had submitted a pirate-ship float proposal that involved people suspended by their piercings.

A lose-lose situation?

Last year, I watched the parade with two 11-year-olds. They were grossed out by the nude bicyclists. As a foster parent, I had, for the first time, to seriously consider the appropriateness of the parade.

While my charge loved the Conga-Line Bananas and helped carry (an inflated version of) the world down the street, the naked people remained her primary memory of the parade.

Is nudity art? For that matter, is hanging from a hook art?

The FAC calls the parade moveable, interactive art. Art evokes a response - and sometimes the response is offense.

I have been offended by the parade, but usually it's the politics being shoved down my throat. I like thought-provoking art, but telling me "they" are wrong doesn't provoke thought.

Some find nudity offensive, and some found PURE's proposed art offensive.

One member accurately described the FAC decision on whether to let PURE roll its float as a lose-lose situation. The FAC stands for inclusiveness. It describes the parade as uninhibited, provocative and open to diversity.

In nearly 30 years of existence, the FAC has avoided setting limits. It prided itself on building a parade, and a community, free of restrictive rules.

And yet, in a historic vote of the board of directors, the normally consensus-based group let majority rule (7-2) to reject the proposal.

If having people suspended from gallows by hooks is art, the FAC turned its back on it. The decision had no historic precedence, since PURE followed the FAC's "rules" so far as they've been established.

The board drew a line in the sand and said no. It gave up its beliefs and denied its identity as "trailblazing" and "freewheeling," but held faith with the goodwill of its audience, other parade participants, the city's permit and donors.

A natural progression

I see this controversy as part of a natural progression. Everyone must eventually grow up.

The FAC wanted to create a new world without rules or limits, but to let PURE, or anyone, do whatever they want eventually could grow dangerous. It wants to be permissive, but even freedom has limits.

I'm not talking cynicism, but maturity.

PURE did walk at the end of this year's parade, carrying banners protesting (without words) the ban of their hooks. The group showed respect, restraint and adherence to rules just as it has throughout this association with the FAC.

Maybe a relationship between the two groups can grow - a mature, thoughtful one that incorporates the needs and wants of both groups.

'A thoughtful, wise discussion'

The FAC decision also could lead to a thoughtful, mature look at the parade - and the anything-goes policy. Besides the suggestively dressed PURE protest, nude bicyclists, flashers and a topless banner carrier, some simply beautiful art and strong community also appeared in the parade.

The FAC website says "we use creativity to build a stronger community." The gong blessing that preceded the parade had thousands of hands raised as the crowd joined in silent reverence.

The innocent fun of the Ice Cream Float and incredibly sweet sight of the 2-year-old bride and groom on their cake brought our hearts together.

The achievement of TOPS students' unicycle ride inspired us.

The awesome robots, constructed entirely for audience enjoyment, deserve to be remembered. They brought joy and celebration to our streets.

Perhaps some thoughtful, wise discussion at the FAC will lead to a deeper appreciation of what they have to offer - instead of the violent, sexual and, sometimes, offensive - and how to focus on art that audiences of all ages and sensitivities can enjoy together.

Kirby Lindsay sits on the sidelines in Fremont where she watches the parade pass her by. She welcomes your comments at[[In-content Ad]]