A popular Nashville eatery and event space has removed a controversial piece of art that featured the Confederate flag amid complaints from patrons and criticism of both the establishment and one of the city’s mayoral candidates.
Nashville mayor candidate Charles Robert Bone asked the Acme Feed & Seed music venue to remove the art after an anonymous Facebook page popped up featuring a doctored image of the candidate standing next to the artwork – a cartoon caricature of a woman wearing Confederate flag bikini bottoms.
"This is offensive and should have no place in Nashville!" the page reads.
Tom Morales, the owner of Acme Feed & Seed, said that the artwork has been removed as requested but added that the artwork is a "satirical commentary on Southern culture" from a local artist named Shelia B. Ware. Ware is known for her "tongue in cheek" pieces in spots such as the the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and the Tennessee State Museum.
"It is unfortunate the full context and story behind Sheila B.'s art is failed to be recognized in this instance," Morales told the Nashville Tennessean. "We apologize for any distress this may have caused."
The "Boycott Acme" Facebook page and subsequent petition to remove the artwork appeared last week, following the deadly shooting at the iconic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. In the days following the shooting, the use of the Confederate flag throughout the southern United States has come under extreme scrutiny.
On Monday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, called for the Confederate flag to be removed from the Statehouse in Columbia, and pledged to call legislators back if they don't deal with it in a special session in the next few weeks.
Just hours before state legislators to returned to work Tuesday, a rally to bring the flag down was held outside the Statehouse, with people holding signs supporting Haley's call to remove the flag and put it in a museum.
In Nashville, Bone – who is an investor in Acme Feed & Seed – appeared shocked by the appearance of the Facebook page, while some of his supporters, including the prominent African-American pastor of Nashville's Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. James "Tex" Thomas, claimed that his political rivals must have created the page.
The page appeared one day after Bone rival Bill Freeman downplayed the idea that the Charleston shooting was racially motivated during a mayoral debate, which drew criticism in the city.
"Anyone who knows me knows I don't support any symbol, gesture or word that is offensive to any community," Bone said of the artwork controversy. "I've asked the operator to remove this one as I don't want it representing Nashville, and anyone who knows me understands that. I appreciate this being called to my attention so I can address the issue openly."
Shielia B. released a statement defending her work. "Anyone that has a vision, and not a set of blinders on, can view my artwork and see that there is a message that is not divisive," she said. "I have a message of inclusion. It is social commentary, and anyone seeing my work as anything other than opposing a divisive culture is delusional and s***-stirring at best."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.