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'We got it wrong - sorry': Arts Council apologises for controversial Nina Simone segregation ad

The ad was part of a campaign about arts “flourishing” in spite of adversity.
Aug 23rd 2021, 10:56 AM 45,978 39

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THE ARTS COUNCIL has apologised for elements of a recent advertising campaign that drew criticism in recent days for referencing the racism faced by legendary US singer Nina Simone. 

The ad campaign contained the slogan ‘Art Flourishes in Spite of Adversity’ and featured various artists throughout history whose work or personal circumstances had seem them face challenges. 

The campaign featured, for example, a picture of William Shakespeare along with a tagline: “A plague couldn’t stop Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet from falling in love.”

The campaign was supported by newspaper representative group Newsbrands Ireland and over the weekend a number of newspapers carried the Nina Simone ad.

The Arts Council ad featured a picture of the singer with a tagline: ‘Segregation couldn’t separate Nina Simone from her music’. 

The words ‘White Only Waiting Room’ were also also superimposed beside the singer’s face, representing the Jim Crow laws which enforced racial segregation across parts of the United States in the 19th and 20th century. 

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The use of the Simon’s image and the comparison with racial segregation to the difficulties being faced by people and musicians during the pandemic was criticised online in recent days and has prompted the Arts Council to apologise.  

The Arts Council is the state agency that generates interests in the arts, advises the government and awards funding to artists and artistic organisations. 

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In a statement this morning, the Arts Council said it had “got it wrong” and wishes to apologise for aspects of the campaign “unintentionally appearing insensitive and upsetting”. 

“The Arts Council has recently been running a promotional campaign intended to convey the power of artistic expression during times of challenge. We understand that aspects of the campaign have unintentionally appeared insensitive and upsetting. That was not our intention,” the statement said. 

We are committed to ensuring equality and diversity in everything we do, and we are cognisant that elements of this campaign did not reflect that commitment. The Arts Council remains grateful for the continued support of the arts community and the public to help us ensure that the arts play a central role as we recover from the Covid crisis.

“We got it wrong on this occasion – sorry.”

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Rónán Duffy

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