On April 21, 2008, Federal Judge Richard J. Arcara ruled to dismiss the indictment against Steven Kurtz, an artist and professor of visual studies at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.
In June 2004, Kurtz was charged with two counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud stemming from an exchange of $256 worth of harmless bacteria with Robert Ferrell, professor of human genetics at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health. Kurtz had planned to use the bacteria in an educational art exhibit about biotechnology with his award-winning art and theater collective, the Critical Art Ensemble.
Kurtz’s lawyer, Paul Cambria, said that his client was “pleased and relieved that this ordeal may be coming to an end.” The prosecution has the right to appeal this dismissal. How the prosecution will proceed is unknown at this time. If an appeal were undertaken the case would move to the New York Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.
Lucia Sommer, coordinator of the Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund, which raises funds for Kurtz’s legal defense, said, “We are all grateful that after reviewing this case, Judge Arcara took appropriate action.” She added that “this decision is further testament to our original statements that Dr. Kurtz is completely innocent and never should have been charged in the first place.”
For more information about the case and to download a PDF of the ruling, visit the Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund website.
Background on Kurtz and the Critical Art Ensemble
The Critical Art Ensemble, which Kurtz cofounded in 1987 with Steven Barnes, has won numerous awards for its bio art, including the prestigious 2007 Andy Warhol Foundation Wynn Kramarsky Freedom of Artistic Expression Grant, honoring more than two decades of distinguished work. The group has been commissioned to exhibit and perform in many of the world’s cultural institutions–including the Natural History Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, both in London; the Whitney Museum of American Art and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, both in New York; the Corcoran Museum of Art in Washington, DC; Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt; the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and many more.