Art and schools clash in Austin, Texas


I noticed that there has been quite a bit of discussion about Tamara Hoover in the blogosphere lately.  I hadn’t heard of her so I spent a little time reading various blog posts and the story is as follows (this is taken from Tamara’s blog):

on may 19 i was called into my principals office.

She told me that I was being placed on administrative

leave and that it was as serious as it gets.

That morning a fellow teacher was talking poorly about

me to her class.

A student said , well if you really dont like Ms

Hoover you should check out the website she is on.


So she told the student to pull it up.

He did so in front of a class full of students.

(you actually have to search for pictures of me its not

right out in the open)

She then went to another teacher and they went to the


They administration met.

Then called an emergency meeting with the school board,

and police.

The school is saying that i was on a pornographic


deemed me ineffective

1. The website is artistic photogrphy and very good

at that.

2. I never told kids to “go see me” at the website.

3. The website is not mine and I have no control over

what the photographer posts, nor do i know what she

is going to post

4. The website is not pornographic.

5. I have been recognized by the board year after year (2 weeks before may 19 board recognized me again) for outstanding

achievments as an art teacher..YET I am supposedly ineffective.


I am an artist and I am thankful that I have support from

parents and my former students.

A report came back from the investigation saying that I am well liked on my campus and have a good reputation of being a caring teacher who tries to help each student find their own artistic voice.

I hope this provides more info for you.

Of course this incident has sparked a debate about whether nudity can be considered art.  I don’t see why this debate is even taking place.  Of course nudity can be considered art and like many things that may or may not be art, it depends on the context.  What amazes me is that the school Tamara taught at is one of the top schools in Austin.  You would think they had an understanding that excellence sometimes comes from people who are unorthodox.  Besides, it isn’t like Tamara started handing the photos out in her classes.  CNN has more on this story:

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Until they found the topless photos, Austin High School officials considered Tamara Hoover an excellent art teacher with a knack for helping students find their creativity.

Now, she’s fighting for her job.

The photos, which were posted on by her partner, depict Hoover in the shower, lifting weights, getting dressed, in bed and doing other routine activities.

Hoover said Friday the photos are art and makes no apologies.

“I’m an artist and I’m going to participate in the arts,” Hoover said. “If that’s not something they want me to do then I want to be told that. I don’t feel as if I was doing anything that was beyond expectations.”

The school district said the photos were inappropriate and violate the “higher moral standard” expected of public school teachers. As she was escorted out of class last month she was told that she’s become an ineffective teacher.

In the meantime a teacher who is regarded as “an excellent art teacher” is forced to fight efforts to have her certification as a teacher removed and from being barred from teaching again.  This is just insane.  To add insult to injury, Tamara’s partner, Celesta Danger, has been dragged into this mess and labelled a pornographer for taking nude photographs.  Here is what she has to say about this said affair:

After Tamara was fired from her job as an AISD high school art teacher, I am removing many images of her for the time being. With all the media attention, I am now seen as a pornographer and unfortunately, Im getting many porn collectors and those wishing to use and post my images of Tamara in a crude, lascivious manner and not to mention the Austin American Statesman running an article this morning noting how quick and easy it was for them to break into my Flickr account and access my Private images. Flickr has also joined the wagon and removed many of my images as well. Ive received much criticism about my homosexual relationship with Tamara, removing my images, posting my images, and just being a poor artist in general. It is important to note that none of the criticism Ive received has affected my decision take down some of our images. Help her fight AISD here:

I am really disappointed that Flickr has also joined in and took down some of Celesta’s photos.  I haven’t seen the photos yet but judging by comments on John C Dvorak’s blog post, the photos were not explicit and seem to have been fairly tasteful.  Certainly no less offensive as many other nude photographs you can find on Flickr and elsewhere:

You’ll have to search, but there are some copies out there as thumbnail graphics. They are tasteful nudes, not porn, with artistic lighting.

The brouhaha is ridiculous, but this is Texas after all.

Actually, I don’t know why I am surprised.  As this comment points out, this is Texas, home state of George W Bush.  Whatever issues we have here in South Africa, incidents like this remind me how thankful I am not to live in such a conservative and intolerant environment that I see more and more in the United States.

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