An outlandish billboard depicting President Donald Trump surrounded by a nuclear blast and money signs resembling swastikas was funded with taxpayer dollars, Judicial Watch alleged Thursday.
The billboard, erected in downtown Phoenix on March 17, also features a pin of a Russian flag on the president’s lapel. And if you look closely, the mushroom clouds look like clown faces. The work was commissioned by “arts advocate” Beatrice Moore, a longtime patron of the arts, and created by Los Angeles-based artist Karen Fiorito.
Fiorito told azfamily.com back in March that she chose the offensive symbolism to reflect “power, money, and dictatorship.”
When neighbor Jeff Whiteman first saw the Nazi Trump image staring “right back at him through his kitchen window,” he was appalled. “It’s pretty drastic. I thought swastikas were very crude and violent,” he said.
But Fiorito was unapologetic. “There are people who say, ‘Well, it’s offensive,’ but the current administration, its policies, the people that are put in power are offensive to me,” she said.
“I worked with Karen Fiorito over 10 years ago, and she created the anti-Bush W billboard for this site then,” Moore posted on her Facebook page on March 17. “Deciding we needed an anti-Trump billboard, I contacted Karen and hired her to design the current signage for the billboard, which we had printed and installed.”
Moore is managing director of both the Grand Avenue Festival and Grand Avenue Arts & Preservation, and has vowed to leave the billboard up for the entire length of Trump’s presidency.
The billboard created quite a stir when it was fist put up:
Judicial Watch filed a public records request with the city of Phoenix shortly after the billboard was erected to obtain details related to public monies connected to organizations and organizers behind the sign. The watchdog group discovered that Moore receives thousands of taxpayer dollars to fund her art projects.
This week Judicial Watch received the documents that show the city of Phoenix has awarded Moore, the Trump Nazi billboard owner and a prominent figure in the local art community, thousands of dollars in grants for a program she runs called Grand Avenue Arts & Preservation (GAP), which encompasses the Art Detour event where the Nazi billboard made its debut.
The publicly funded annual art celebration is touted as having “a diverse slate of activities created by local artists and art venues to celebrate the growing, vibrant Phoenix arts scene” and is described as “…one of the most important events in Phoenix’s calendar” by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.
The event is produced by a group called Artlink, which was founded by Moore, in partnership with the city of Phoenix. Former Phoenix Deputy City Manager Rick Naimark, who retired in 2015 with a hefty pension, sits on the board of Artlink.
Moore and her various publicly-funded art enterprises received $3,500 from the city of Phoenix in July 2016, the records obtained by Judicial Watch show, which encompasses the March 2017 Art Detour event that kicked off with the Trump Nazi billboard.
In August 2016 Artlink, founded by Moore, was awarded $1,800 for the 2017 Art Detour event, according to the records. Moore, who contracted Fiorito to create the anti-Trump billboard, is recognized by the city as an “artist, community organizer and arts advocate” and the annual festival she puts together with public money aims to “diminish barriers,” the records say. Funds come from “government grant monies,” including the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and the money is used for “artists’ fees.”
The objectionable Trump billboard, which involves taxpayer money, doesn’t appear to promote a “growing, vibrant” art scene in the City of Phoenix and seems to fall short of Moore’s stated goal of “diminishing barriers” through art.
Moore told azfamily.com back in March that owning the billboard “gives us more freedom to host controversial projects on it.”
A number of anti-Obama billboards also popped up around the country during the Obama years, but those were privately funded.