SPOTLIGHT: ACLU Files Suit Over Idaho Law That Regulates Alcohol And 'Indecency'

Sep 15, 2016

Performance artist Anne McDonald during a burlesque show at the Visual Arts Collective in 2015.
Credit Jason Sievers / Facebook

The ACLU of Idaho filed suit against the state police on behalf of a group of artists and a venue owner, challenging a statute the organization says censors artistic expression.

The law being challenged has to do with sexually suggestive art in venues that serve alcohol. This summer, the issue came up when performance artist Anne McDonald did a show at the Visual Arts Collective – also known as the VAC in Garden City. McDonald, whose act includes burlesque dance and costumes that often bare quite a bit of skin, says she was devastated when the state threatened to revoke the venue’s liquor license to enforce the law. She says she didn’t know they were in violation since the VAC is not primarily a bar.

“But the Visual Arts Collective specifically is an art gallery theater space that happens to have a liquor license," says McDonald. "They aren’t just a bar – they’re primarily an art space.”

The venue settled in court with an $8,000 fine. The artist says the statute is arbitrary and hearkens back to “the dark ages," and unconstitutionally limits free speech.

“The whole artistic process has been a journey of self-discovery, of acceptance, of being able to share with other people who want to come on this journey – meaning the audience – and the [fact that] that is not OK is upsetting.”

McDonald and the VAC, along with a local theater company, filed suit in federal court Thursday.

Check out a profile of performance artist Anne McDonald from 2014.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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