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VCU students say the university dodged the sex workers; but the show must go on (minus sparklers) 

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Slipping in the last word before tonight's Sex Workers' Art Show in Richmond at the Gay Community Center, VCU students held a brief press conference today discussing the university's cancellation. Jeremy Kidd, student co-organizer, says that last year's show at VCU (the Sex Workers' first performance in Richmond) had a very positive response -- more than 300 students were turned away due to limited occupancy.

However, shortly after the show's debut, Dean of Student Affairs Reuban Rodriguez, made a statement on Channel 8's evening newscast, saying the show would not be allowed to return to campus. VCU spokesperson Pam Lepley says only that there was never any contract for this year's performance.

Kidd describes having secured a venue reservation on campus in December 2007, but not until early January did college administration decide to renege. After being given the run-around by various administration departments, Kidd says, he realized he could not secure a venue or a sponsor. Further, his funding plans proved disorganized and inefficient. Had he relied on student funding rather than raw ticket sales, perhaps VCU could have gained the student government support that it needed.

Devoid of both resources and optimism, Kidd handed over leadership to Sean Barker, a recent William & Mary grad once involved in the production on campus and co-founder of Outrageous Events, a promoter of local events. Barker's company has since been coordinating the Richmond show at the Gay Community Center. He has served as organizer Annie Oakley's go-to man for Virginia appearances.

Barker knowingly welcomed the challenge of bringing the art show and its wake of controversy to Virginia.

"I knew it was going to be a fight," says Barker, "but the best thing that could have happened was for it to become a national discussion for free speech."

Despite this year's struggles, Barker and Kidd remain hopeful that the show will return for round two next year. Communication between VCU administration and student organizers has been anything but open, Kidd says, but if the invitation for free discussion presents itself, he will certainly take it.

As for tonight's show, without the sanction of a university, Barker says it should be an uncensored version of W&M's performance. Except there won't be anal sparklers tonight -- fire marshal's orders.

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