Petition Closed
Petitioning Majorie Searl and 2 others

Stop Tom Otterness Project at the Memorial Art Gallery

Our Memorial Art Gallery has commissioned a piece of sculpture by a man named Tom Otterness.  Mr. Otterness is notorious for "adopting" a dog from an animal shelter, chaining it to a fence, shooting it, then filming it's agonizing death for "art's sake"
Mr. Otterenss; criminal actions were recently uncovered by journalist Gary Indiana.  In 2008 Mr. Otterness issued what he calls a public apology.

Ultimately he lost a commission in San Francisco(they were unaware of his past activities).

Sadly, my hometown knew of his past and hired him anyways.

Since the petition activated on October 2,  we accumulated over  2200 names.

Many local, regional, but the petition has gained national and global interest.

If MAG goes ahead with this sculpture our fear is more loss of funding to the arts because of this appalling lack of judgement for a major commisssion.

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Thanks for your time

Michelle Brownstein DVM


Letter to
Majorie Searl
President Theresa Mazzullo
Director of Memorial Art Gallery Grant Holcomb
I just signed the following petition addressed to: Memorial Art Gallery.

Rochesterians Against Tom Otterness (RATO) formed almost four weeks ago in response to several local news items reporting his artwork will be in the Memorial Art Gallery Centennial Park.

We are enclosing a petition that started on October 2, 2011 and has gathered over 2200 signatures from around the world. All these people signed our petition to protest the Memorial Art Gallery commission
by sculptor Tom Otterness. Furthermore, we all believe there is no place for a sculpture by this artist in Rochester.

You knew that in 1977, Otterness “adopted” a stray dog from Denver Dumb Friends League. He brought the dog home, tied it to a fence and shot it in cold blood. The fatal wounding and agonizing death was filmed as “art” in a piece called “Shot Dog Film”.

According to a Denver article, Otterness' “Shot Dog Film” debuted on Christmas Eve in Manhattan. Mr. Otterness never faced criminal charges because he “left” the state. The unnamed dog would have passed away, totally forgotten had it not been for journalist Gary Indiana.

In 2007, Mr. Otterness is now a wealthy sculptor, famous for his “whimsical” creations. Gary Indiana uncovered Otterness' sordid past while doing background research for a Wichita commission. Only after this exposure did Otterness offer his “apology”. Otterness said, “As you must understand this is very difficult and painful situation for me. Thirty years ago when I was 25 years old, I made a film in which I shot a dog. It was an indefensible act that I am deeply sorry for. Many of us experienced profound emotional turmoil and despair. Few have made the mistake I made. I hope people can find it in their hearts to forgive me.”

Tom Otterness did not just make a “mistake" or commit an “indefensible act.” He premeditated the murder of another living creature to justify his artistic whims 30 years ago. Research shows that people who commit atrocities against animals almost always progress to other forms of domestic violence and aberrant behavior, and remain largely incapable of rehabilitation without intensive psychotherapy.

Otterness never returned to Colorado to face criminal charges, never served time in prison, and has made no effort to pay restitution for murdering a defenseless dog. This dog came into his possession under the guise of an adoption. Mr. Otterness surely told the animal shelter he would give the dog a loving home. Instead, this dog spent its last hours chained to a fence, writhing in agony from the bullet, only to die alone and unloved.

A recent Rochester article quotes Otterness' feelings about financial restitution. “The idea that my making a donation to a shelter would somehow legitimize or validate my apology seems senseless to me. I've never felt that it was possible to buy my way out of a responsibility for what I did and would hate for anyone to ever think that's what I was trying to do. I've spent 34 years thinking privately about how to make a positive contribution to the world and certainly will continue to do so.” RATO sees no remorse in this comment either. Clearly, Otterness feels monetary restitution seems senseless to him. We think Rochester should completely free itself of Tom Otterness and cut its losses. Should MAG choose to hold firm to its commitment to Otterness, RATO fears this will create a political black eye not only for MAG, but the University of Rochester's stellar reputation as well as the City of Rochester.

San Francisco did not have the information on Otterness' past as did MAG. And, they went ahead and signed contracts for his commissions. However in response to a very strong public outcry, their lawyers are reviewing the contracts with Otterness and the projects are on hold according to San Francisco Examiner reporter, Joshua Sabitini. None of this bodes well for Otterness, and more importantly, the Rochester community.

We appeal to you both, Mr. Holcomb and Ms. Mazzullo, to bring a halt to this art project. We understand MAG may lose a substantial investment, but we are convinced it is better than bringing this man's art to our fair city. People make bad business decisions all the time some in excess of billions of dollars. This is a costly error, commissioning Tom Otterness, but isn't it better to end it now rather than to pay additional sums for a sculpture that is vehemently opposed by Rochesterians?
What we do not understand is that—having done your due diligence—you and the MAG board were convinced that Otterness was the ONLY artist capable of filling the qualifications for the park sculpture. Were you unaware of people and their emotional bonds to animals?? Or did you underestimate the fact that honest people, artists and non-artists alike, feel that Tom Otterness lacks a moral compass? Regardless of the apology he has issued over the years, it is merely convenient lip service and does little to comfort those of us who are repelled by his egregious actions.

RATO respectfully submits the petition to you and graciously expects a response within seven days.

Michelle T. Brownstein DVM

Isaac A. Brownstein

Co-Founders, Rochesterians Against Tom Otterness

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Rochesterians Against Tom Otterness

Michelle Brownstein started this petition with a single signature, and now has 3,885 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.