Statement in Support of Conflict Kitchen -School of Art - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Statement in Support of Conflict Kitchen

From John Carson, Head of the School of Art & Dan Martin, Dean of the College of Fine Arts

Most of you will have seen the announcement from Interim Provost Nathan Urban about recent events concerning Conflict Kitchen, the art project by Professor Jon Rubin and Art alumna Dawn Weleski, that sets out to create awareness and promote understanding of people living in regions with which the United States is in conflict. Not only the reprehensible death threat, but also the misrepresentation of the mission and intent of Conflict Kitchen bring a sharp focus to several principles that are vital to those of us practicing, teaching and learning within the arts.

Art is not about presenting a balanced view of ideas, but about offering a creative perspective that can often intensify the larger truth of a subject. Art often challenges assumptions or illustrates alternative points of view; it can incite passion and spark reflection and reconsideration of long-held beliefs or positions.  Art can provoke healthy discussion and debate, as noted by the provost’s message today.

Jon and Dawn’s work may not be to everyone’s liking.  Its messages may not be universally accepted, but the College of Fine Arts and the School of Art fully support and respect the right of all of our artists to express themselves through Conflict Kitchen. (That support and respect extends to the the work of all of our artists and designers across the college.) Operating within the law set forth by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and our nation, we stand behind freedom of expression in all art forms.

Conflict Kitchen aims to promote understanding.  That goal is at the core of its mission.  We would hope that Jon and Dawn’s work continues to encourage civil public discussion and, going forward, that all opinions may be expressed freely and openly, without threat, malice or misrepresentation.

From Carnegie Mellon University Office of the Provost

Many of you have learned that Conflict Kitchen has temporarily closed its Schenley Plaza location because of a death threat against its staff. Conflict Kitchen is an art project created by Carnegie Mellon University Professor Jon Rubin and artist Dawn Weleski to bring awareness to and promote understanding of people living in regions with which the United States is in conflict. Our university condemns the criminal actions of those responsible for this threat. Since learning about the threat, we have taken appropriate steps with local police authorities to investigate the matter and help ensure the safety of all individuals who may be affected.

Threats of violence, such as that received by Conflict Kitchen, have a chilling effect on free expression, have no place in civilized society, and deserve universal condemnation as well as appropriate judicial action. Protecting freedom of expression from such threats is essential in a democratic society. 

Carnegie Mellon University supports all forms of freedom of expression, consistent with the laws of the Commonwealth and nation. The university respects the rights of those involved, as well as the rights of others to express their disagreement. Controversial expression and resulting debate are fundamental elements of democratic society and are at the core of our academic mission. 

Nathan Urban, Interim Provost

More information about Conflict Kitchen, press coverage, and CK's responses to media can be found on their website