Mary-Louise Schumacher of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has done a fantastic job of laying out the issues, talking to all sides, even unexpected folks. And she comes down on the right side, too.
There's a chance that China would pull its antiquities if Milwaukee Art Museum openly protested Ai's detention. But not talking about him at all during the museum's whole "Summer of China" makes the museum look like it's turning a blind eye to blatant human rights abuses. And comments like this one are nothing but gibberish borne of convenience:
Julia Taylor, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee and one of the civic leaders on the 2008 China trip, agreed: "One of the problems is that Americans tend to want to impose their own values. Chinese culture has been around for over 5,000 years, so I think we have to be somewhat cautious in dictating the approach that this older culture should take.
"For the art museum to play a social role here, I’m not sure that is their role," she said.
So, a culture can beat, silence, and jail its citizens with impunity, as long as it's old? And if an art museum cuts itself off from having a social role, what use is it? A place for expensive stuff? (Why are people who promote tourism so often amoralists?)
The Milwaukee Art Museum is in a particular position to have a voice this summer. Whether it should make bold, public protest or have quiet discussions with the Chinese dignitaries that will undoubtedly come here, is hard to say. But the “Summer of China” should not pass without an airing of Ai Weiwei’s case.
It's an evenhanded, basic request for dialogue. Read the whole thing.