Banners Banned

Fashion History Museum’s Kenn Norman, left, and Jonathan Walford with the promotional banner at the Fashion History Museum. – Peter Lee,Record staff

CAMBRIDGE — The sculptured lower torso of Michelangelo’s David is sandwiched by two red fields.

In his right hand, the Goliath-slaying rock is clutched.

And covering the naked David’s privates? Not a fig leaf, as was added to a Victorian Era plaster copy of the famous towering marble statue, but a red maple leaf.

Fig leaf out. Red maple leaf in.

It’s there to be seen on the Canada 150 exhibition-promoting banner hanging on the side of the Fashion History Museum in Hespeler.

Curatorial director Jonathan Walford is proud of his promotional notion, designed by Teresa Adamo of Guelph, which drapes down the side of the town’s former post office.

“It was just the idea of using the maple leaf instead of the fig leaf,” Walford explained on Wednesday. “Because the fig leaf represents the first clothing worn by mankind. It seemed to put a Canadian bent on it, making it a maple leaf instead of a fig leaf.”

But the museum’s original plan was to have more “David’s Maple Leaf” banners.

The museum says the idea it pitched to the city would have seen mini-versions of the David banners hung from the lamp posts of Hespeler, and perhaps through Galt and Preston as well.

But on Wednesday, the banner-holding brackets along Queen Street, which tend to reach out into the street and get battered by passing trucks, were empty.

Back in February, city officials said they would not permit the David banners to dangle from city lamp posts, as other museum banners had done a year ago.

Officials, according to the museum, feared some citizens might be offended by the poster design. And, since lamp posts are city property, they declined to give the museum permission to mount the David banners from them.

The city explained its position in an email to The Record on Wednesday.

“In this case, the banners in question are not appropriate for two main reasons: they do not meet with the guidelines established by the federal government for Canada 150 banners,” an email from city spokesperson Andrea Montgomery said.

“And while they may fit with the Fashion History Museum’s brand, they go beyond the boundaries of what is appropriate for the city.”

The city took no issue with the museum, which uses an $80,000 annual grant from the city to pay expenses, using the David design to advertise the “Fashioning Canada Since 1867” exhibition — just not from a city lamp post.

“At lot of this is in anticipation of issues, which is a very Canadian response,” Walford said of the city stance on the banner design. “They’re always worried about offending.”

The “David’s Maple Leaf” design, museum chair Kenn Norman says, was put forward for a national award from TechSoup Canada and placed well in the final ratings.

“The museum isn’t aware of any controversy over the image,” Norman wrote in an email to The Record. “To date, we have had only one visitor comment who was curious if the banner’s placement on the exterior of the museum had raised any objections, being so close in proximity to local churches.”

Directly across Queen Street, at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, the museum’s promotional use of the Michelangelo’s biblical David had barely been noticed. And when it was pointed out to Rev. Scott McAndless, the slingshot response was supportive.

“It’s a great work of art they are referring to,” McAndless said. “There’s no issue that I’m aware of.”

Corey Cotterlinforth, the music director at St. Andrew’s, admired the creative of the museum’s poster design.

“It’s attention-grabbing,” Cotterlinforth said. “It’s good marketing.”

But such strong-of-hand marketing won’t have the lamppost reach it could have.

“We thought it would have been fun,” Walford said.

From the Waterloo Record, May 31, 2017, article by Jeff Hicks

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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