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MURAL KEPT FROM VIEW AT GOP EVENT

A mural at the Salt Lake Art Center - deemed too revealing for a Republican fund-raising event - was covered up before the event began.

Gov. Mike Leavitt and others attending the private pre-reception party on Saturday for the annual Governor's Gala were kept from viewing the photographic piece of Utah artist Sara J. Northerner.The mural, featuring frontal nudes and other images on strips of color photographic paper suspended from a wooden border, was blocked from view in the downstairs gallery.

"We asked them to cover it for the evening because we didn't feel it would be appropriate for the event," said Leavitt campaign manager Charlie Evans. "All art is not appropriate for all occasions and that art was not appropriate for this event."

Art Center staff said Bonnie Stephens, director of the Utah Arts Council, also was concerned that influential lawmakers - who might be offended by the work - could use it as an excuse to reduce public funding for the arts.

Stephens' brother is Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah. Her niece, Amy Hansen, arranged the Art Center reception for the Leavitt re-election campaign.

But Stephens denied a role in placing a screen in front of Northerner's mural, saying the Salt Lake County-owned art center had covered the work previously for such things as weddings.

"I was not advocating covering it, but saying if that's what (Amy Hansen) wants . . . then go ahead and put (the screen) up," Stephens said.

In fact, Stephens' agency is sponsoring the exhibit at the Art Center that includes Northerner's work, "Untitled Mural."

"It has a soft focus and there is a lot of shadow," said Allen Dodworth, Art Center interim director and the person who ordered the Northerner mural shielded. "The real issue is: There is full frontal nudity and the piece occupies one wall by itself. People can't politely ignore it."

The exhibit, "A View Of 7," included works of seven visual artists, who were selected for an annual Utah Arts Council Fellowship Finalists exhibition. The showing concluded Sunday afternoon.