A billboard advertising an Islamic art exhibit at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa was vandalized Tuesday, according to the museum’s director.
The billboard, which has since been replaced, featured a piece of ceramic pottery and text that read, “1,200 years of Islamic Art.” Someone wrote “HOME GROWN TERROR!” in black spray paint on the billboard and the one below it.
The Tulsa Police Department has not responded to a request for comment.
Museum Director Scott Stulen said he has seen an outpouring of community support since the incident.
“What’s been really great is seeing the community rally behind us for this,” he said. “Even if they don’t necessarily want to support the museum, they don’t want to see this hate in their community.”
The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it was both saddened and frustrated.
“Philbrook’s exhibition shows now, more than ever, the importance of our understanding and appreciation of the Muslim community, both here and abroad,” CAIR-OK Civil Rights Director Veronica Laizure said.
Stulen said the exhibit, which runs until October 6, has seen an uptick in attendance since the vandalism.
“We could not be more proud to present this show and we will not be deterred by any form of intolerance in our community,” he wrote in a statement. “We believe strongly that museums are for everyone. We can’t just say that or have it in the mission statement on our website, we must show this commitment to inclusion through the exhibitions we present and the programs we create.”
Before the exhibit opened, the museum took additional safety precautions, Stulen said, including sensitivity training for security and museum staff.
“It may be a bit optimistic, but my hope with this exhibition is to show humanity around issues like this, in hopes of softening the divides that currently exist,” he said.
Stulen said that this is the first instance of hate that the museum has seen since the exhibit’s opening and that it won’t deter more diverse exhibits in the future.
For him, it’s a way to counter ignorance surrounding people’s differences.
“I’d happily give the vandalist a tour of the exhibit myself,” he said.