Catholics of all ages gathered Wednesday night outside of Marcellus Free Library to protest Geri Keil's "Bebe Coca," the Trumansburg artist's interpretation of the Virgin of Guadalupe, on display at the library as part of the July exhibit featuring art inspired by Mexican culture.
Parishioners of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God Church, a Society of St. Pius X, in Syracuse were vocal throughout the month of July in opposition to the piece, which used a Coca-Cola bottle to represent the body of the Virgin of Guadalupe. A petition with 78 signatures and at least two formal requests to remove the piece were submitted to the library board, which denied the request and left the piece on display.
The group, which is not affiliated with the Syracuse Diocese, walked up and down Maple Street Wednesday evening reciting the Rosary for Reparation. Some members of the group carried religious symbols.
Siena Halligan, of Syracuse, had brought her four children, ages 4 to 9, to the protest and took them inside the library to show them Keil's work. She explained to them that it was disrespectful that the artist used a soft drink bottle to represent the body.
Marcellus resident and regular MFL patron Danielle Jacobs was leaving the building shortly after 7 p.m., when the protest began. She said she had heard about the controversy, but didn't the piece personally insulting.
In fact, Jacobs was glad to see a religious icon being displayed in a public place like the library.
Michael Brown, president of the MFL Library Board, said the board has a system in place for situations where patrons find material in the library objectionable. The "Reconsideration of Materials" form can be submitted by patrons to request the board consider removing a specific material from the facility.
"It's very, very important to have a system in place," Brown said, adding that libraries often by nature have materials that some people might find offensive.