MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Score one for the power of the people. The Memphis Shelby County Airport Authority has reversed an utterly ridiculous decision to remove artwork by Memphis photographer Tommy Kha from the airport’s newly remodeled concourse.
Kha’s self-portrait, in which he is dressed as Elvis, will be reinstalled among the many pieces from local artists that have given the new concourse a distinctive Memphis flavor.
Why Kha’s work was removed in the first place is a story rooted in bigotry and, let’s face it, a lack of courage by the airport authority. Apparently some Elvis fans objected to the portrait – with a few complainers saying they were offended because Kha is Asian-American.
But once the word circulated around Memphis that the work had been removed, the outrage became intense. Many people, especially those in the arts community, said the decision was an embarrassment for Memphis and made us look like an intolerant city that caters to out of town bigots.
Airport authority CEO Scott Brockman made the point Tuesday that removing the portrait was temporary. Earlier, he said airport officials did not want pieces showing celebrities or public officials. But that explanation did not hold water, because Kha is only impersonating a celebrity in his self-portrait.
Regardless, a terrible wrong has now been righted. Hopefully, this is a learning lesson for everyone that public opinion matters – and that bigotry and intolerance cannot rule the day.
RELATED: Memphis International Airport decides to re-install Tommy Kha's Elvis depiction 1 day after its removal
RELATED: Why was an Asian-American artist's depiction of Elvis removed from Memphis International Airport's new terminal?
RELATED: New art collection gets travelers excited for their flights at Memphis International Airport