Arts & Culture

Artists say Idaho liquor law restricts their free, creative speech

A group of local artists is suing the state police, challenging a statute they say 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.

McDonald and the VAC, along with a local theater company, filed suit in federal court Thursday. Their legal team includes a lawyer from the ACLU of Idaho.

The suit comes nine months after a similar case involving a showing of “Fifty Shades of Grey” at the Village Cinema in Meridian, which serves alcohol. ISP filed a complaint against the Village, citing a ban on showing films that depict certain sex acts where alcohol is served. In response, the company that owns the Village Cinema sued ISP.

State lawmakers later tweaked the statute, putting the focus instead on whether films meet existing indecency and obscenity standards.

Read more about the lawsuit and McDonald's comments at Boise State Public Radio’s website.