When art fought the law and the art won.EmpowerU Studio at Frame USA
225 Northland Blvd
Cincinnati, Ohio 45246
Just Added to the Program: Dennis Barrie – The Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center from 1983-1992
Join us in-studio or virtually Tuesday, April 4th, at 7:00 pm to hear Dennis Barrie, former director of the Cincinnati Arts Center, and his defense attorney, H. Louis Sirkin, revisit Robert Mapplethorpe’s The Perfect Moment, the community’s reaction to the controversial photos, and the obscenity trial that engaged national figures and everyday Americans in conversations and spirited debate about obscenity versus art and the impact on community standards.
Why the Jury Verdict of Not Guilty was Correct. When the Mapplethorpe photos arrived by truck on March 28, 1990, Cincinnati had a widely held and mostly earned reputation as one of the most conservative cities in America. Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. was waiting for the photographs. In his mind, the photographs were smut, not art. A collection of challenging photographs and difficult questions about sex and sacrilege, art and obscenity, politics and polemics. (Simon Leis, Jr. shown below).
The art show, titled The Perfect Moment, opened on a chilly April morning in 1990, and among the first people through the door of the Contemporary Arts Center were nine members of a grand jury who viewed the 175 photographs and deemed seven of them to be not just offensive, but criminal. Eventually, the question of what free speech is and what is too much would be heard in a Municipal Court room After a week of explicit and evocative photographs and expert testimony, a jury went into its room for what was expected to be a long haul and a certain outcome. (Robert Maplethorpe shown below).
H. Louis Sirkin, the attorney representing the CAC and Barrie, said at the time of the decisions: “It’s so intellectually wrong, it’s incredible.” Sirkin continued: “All I can tell you is, if we get an acquittal, we’re absolutely brilliant.”
Barbara Holwadel is a newly elected member of the Ohio Republican Party State Central Committee. She ran for election as a reform candidate. Barbara will give us an update of the state of the Ohio Republican Party which is a follow-up to the class EmpowerU featured on February 09, 2022 on possible Corruption in the Ohio Republican Party. Barbara will speak from 7:10-7:30 PM.
H. Louis Sirkin is one of the nation’s preeminent First Amendment and criminal defense attorneys. Over more than 50 years of practice, Sirkin has consistently defended the free speech and constitutional rights of countless individuals and businesses, including adult entertainment establishments, museums, artists, activists, and ordinary citizens in all types of cases. Lou is both a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the American Board of Criminal Lawyers.
Born in Cincinnati, Sirkin obtained both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Cincinnati. He entered private practice and quickly earned a reputation as an effective civil rights lawyer. He achieved national prominence in 1990 when he successfully defended the director of the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati against obscenity charges for displaying the nude artwork of Robert Mapplethorpe. The controversy was later depicted in the Golden Globe-winning movie Dirty Pictures (2000). He has served as President of the First Amendment Lawyers Association and the Greater Cincinnati Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
Sirkin is a true believer and has distinguished himself as a compassionate mentor, a sought-after lecturer, and a tireless advocate. He has represented persons whose message was completely contrary to his own beliefs and has risked both his career and his physical safety to do so. He was once escorted out the rear door of the courthouse to avoid being assaulted by individuals who opposed his clients. But perhaps Sirkin’s most notable accomplishment was his 2002 victory before the United States Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition.
In addition, he has defended on appeal numerous individuals on death row. In total, he has handled more than 125 appeals in civil and criminal cases.
Sirkin frequently lectures to students at the country’s top universities, participating in panels at Harvard University, New York University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Michigan, and Northern Kentucky University, to name a few. He has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati, where he taught habeas corpus law and a First Amendment seminar.
She has run for State Central Committee and Madeira City Council and finally won a seat on the ORP State Central Committee August of 2022. Since taking her oath of office she has been devoting every day to doing something to strengthen the party. She serves as Secretary on the Platform Committee and is spearheading an effort accelerate its passage. Barbara is working to keep people informed through running her new website, BarbaraforOhio.com and social media.
Dennis Barrie – Mr. Barrie was the museum Director for the Cincinnati Contempory Arts Museum from 1983-1992, during the Mapplethorpe trial. Dennis Barrie has an extensive career in planning, developing and managing both major and less traditional cultural destinations—museums, exhibits, visitor centers, and public spaces. He is an internationally distinguished museum director, cultural historian and an expert in popular culture. His expertise is in developing innovative projects that come from and respond to the unique circumstances of various cities and locations across the US.
His career includes eleven years with the Smithsonian Institution as Midwest Director of the Archives of American Art, where he interviewed and documented many of the great artists of the 20th Century.
For eight years he served as Director of Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center (1983-1991), the second oldest museum of contemporary art in the United States. During his tenure at the Contemporary Arts Center, Dennis and the Center were involved in a landmark First Amendment case centering on the right of the museum to show the controversial work of Robert Mapplethope . Indicted for obscenity, Barrie was acquitted in a jury trial that captured the attention of the art world and the country at large.
As the opening Executive Director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland (1993-1996), Dennis led all aspects of the project from concept—construction, staff development, marketing, fundraising and most importantly, the conceptualization and development of the Rock Hall’s films and exhibits—through opening and dedication.
After leaving the Rock Hall, Barrie did museum and cultural consulting work for clients such as the International Museum of Cartoon Art, Walt Disney Company, Elvis Presley Estate and Site Santa Fe.
In 1998, Dr. Barrie became the president of the The Malrite Company, where he worked with CEO Milton Maltz to develop new and creative concepts for museum projects. The company’s major project was the development of the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, a major critical and popular success.
Leaving Malrite in 2005, Barrie founded Barrie Projects, a museum consultancy. Under the Barrie Projects banner, Dennis worked on the conceptualization of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel, NY, located on the site of Max Yasgur’s farm, home to the 1969 “Woodstock Festival.” Barrie Projects also provided developmental services for the Grammy Museum and the Museum of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, both in Los Angeles. Working with Arts and Exhibits International/AEG (Los Angeles), Barrie Projects was instrumental in putting together the Michael Jackson Official Exhibition which opened its world tour in London in October 2009.
In 2006, Dennis was hired as the Creative Director for The Mob Museum: National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, a $43 million project in downtown Las Vegas, designed to attract new audiences to the city core, housed in the historic federal courthouse where the Kefauver Hearings into organized crime were held. The Museum’s 2012 opening garnered rave reviews in The New York Times, USA Today and on the Today Show, among others.
In 2012, Dennis led a team of professionals hired to re-think the exhibits and marketing programs of the Pro-Football Hall of Fame. The result was a $23 million redesign of exhibits and facilities. In addition, Dennis co-developed the Hall of Fame’s 50th anniversary traveling exhibit entitled Gridiron Glory that has traveled to 17 NFL cities over the course of seven years.
Other recent projects include the development of a state- of- the- art exhibit for the NASA Glenn Visitors Center, the development of a feasibility study for the American Writers Museums and project management for the development of the National Psychology Museum.
In 2013, Dennis and his Barrie Projects team led the development of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Museum. The $91M museum is America’s first official museum designed to explore the history of our country’s participation in the modern games.
Dennis is currently serving as the Director of Experience Design for the Cleveland History Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society.