A CENSORSHIP row has erupted between an art class and the congregation at an Ashbourne church.
Anniversary celebrations at St John’s Church, in Buxton Road, were to include an exhibition by a life drawing class which meets weekly at the church hall.
However, some members of the church removed much of the artwork from the display — referring to it as ‘real life porn’.
Professional and amateur artists who were invited to submit their work for exhibition were outraged by the move, branding it “censorship” on the part of the parishioners.
It is thought some pieces of artwork fell down because the adhesive used wasn’t strong enough.
However, no moves were made to reinstate the work and it is believed further drawings were removed from the exhibition by members of the congregation.
Gini Smith, 48, from Biggin, runs the life drawing class, which meets on Wednesday mornings.
She said: “One of my artists went to put something in the exhibition and she found most of the stuff had been taken down.
“The general gist of it was that members of the congregation who were getting ready for the birthday weekend thought it was completely unsuitable and found it offensive that there would be drawings of naked people in the church.
“They asked us to exhibit our work — what did they expect? “It’s not unusual for artists to draw naked people. It has a long artistic history.
“I found it quite insulting to both the artists and models. We’re not drawing anything pornographic — it’s a human body, we all live in one.
“I found it quite amusing, but I was quietly furious at the same time because of all the effort people had made in choosing their work and getting it ready.” Vicar of Ashbourne, the Rev Canon Geraldine Pond, was unaware of the argument until the weekend-long anniversary celebrations culminated in a special songs of praise service with the Bishop of Derby on Sunday night.
She said: “We are made in God’s image and the beauty of life drawing is that it is a wonderful gift to be able to capture the human form in art.
“I do think there was a series of misunderstandings. It is certainly not the policy of the church to want to exclude any contributions from any of the groups that we invited to take part. I was very sad to hear about the misunderstanding.
“All the groups that use the church hall were invited to make a contribution to the celebratory weekend and we did have a fabulous service with a church that was full of people from the whole community.
“I am personally disappointed that the life drawing class wasn’t represented.
I think we should be encouraging art in all its diversity.
“There’s no intention to hurt people or for people to feel in any way that their work wasn’t valued.”