Richland County, SC (WLTX) – A Midlands student's artwork displaying nudity was taken away from a public display at her school.
Makenna Christensen is a senior International Baccalaureate® (IB) student at Richland Northeast High School.
Christensen said the acclaimed IB curriculum, an accelerated education program that can earn the students college credits, encouraged pushing the boundaries with their expression.
She said she did just that. Her art project focused around femininity and exploring the female form. Christensen said she chose the topic to promote body positivity and self-acceptance, things she has struggled with.
"One day I walk in and my art’s gone, and I’m like where did it go what happened to it and come to find out a bunch of admins had gone in and taken all of my art down or at least the ones that they felt was explicit material," the 18-year-old explained.
The collection took two years to create and included images of naked female body parts. Christensen said her administrators thought it was too controversial and inappropriate for a high school setting.
“It may not be appropriate for the entire student body who may walk through there at any given time,” Richland School District Two spokesperson Libby Roof said of the pieces being taken down. “Also families come in to see the artwork and can bring younger children so artwork that may feature something like nudity or graphic violence would not be appropriate for everyone.”
Roof said the art display had to cater to all age groups. She also mentioned that nudity could not be displayed on a student’s clothing or in a student publication so this was no different.
"It was actually kind of gut-wrenching. I cried a lot which I guess says something about my art and what it meant to me as well what it meant to other people," Christensen said passionately.
“We certainly regret that she feels that way if we had had some procedures in place at the beginning to let them know you know what would happen with the show that probably could’ve been prevented,” Roof said.
"Another big challenge is that the female body is so sexualized," the IB student scoffed. "There was this sense of my art did what it was supposed to do in a way while it was still upsetting and while I feel it shouldn’t have been taken down I think it speaks towards our society and what needs to change about it."
The student said after her artwork was taken down, some of her classmates' was taken down as well.
Roof said no conversation was had with Christensen before the art was taken down. However, Roof said the school's principal said she should have had a conversation beforehand and if this situation were to happen again in the future she would do just that.
“There’s a policy that deals with academic freedom and that policy states that academic freedom is not absolute and that means restrictions can be placed on any activity if that activity is can be associated with the school,” Roof said.
Roof said the school might consider for the future looking at artwork before it is displayed.
The spokesperson added that Christensen’s grade was not affected.
"I don’t think someone should get to choose what’s art," the young artist said. "We’re known and emphasized for being diverse, for being welcoming, open-minded. So it’s just surprising to me so many artworks were taken down for any type of controversy."