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Villanova Cancels Gay Artist's Workshop

PATRICK WALTERS   02/21/12 05:40 PM ET  AP

Performance Artist

PHILADELPHIA — Villanova University has canceled a workshop on personal narrative by a gay performance artist, saying his shows aren't in keeping with its Catholic values.

Artist Tim Miller, once dubbed the "patron saint of the gay performance world" by the Los Angeles Times, said he was scheduled to lead the five-day workshop for students in April but the university abruptly scrapped it on Sunday. He said his workshops focus on personal narrative and the students guide the direction they take but topics often include issues such as faith, sexuality, self and truth.

Miller said he thinks his being gay played into Villanova's decision to cancel.

"The thing that they worry about, I think, is that I am a gay person," he said. "Being a gay person with political opinions."

Miller said on Tuesday he has done similar workshops at Chicago's DePaul University, the nation's largest Catholic university, and other schools. He said Villanova, a Catholic private university with about 10,000 students just outside Philadelphia, did not tell him why it was canceling his workshop.

"This is not my first time at the dance," Miller said, noting the cancellation came after blog postings that were critical about him. "It's clearly homophobia and panic."

In a statement, Villanova said it had concerns that Miller's workshops "were not in keeping with our Catholic and Augustinian values and mission."

"Therefore, Villanova has decided not to host Mr. Miller on our campus," the statement said. "Villanova University is an open and inclusive community and in no way does this singular decision change that."

A spokesman said the university would not answer questions beyond the statement on Tuesday.

Miller gained notoriety in 1990 when he and three others had grants vetoed by the National Endowment for the Arts. His work is frequently provocative, and he has been arrested in the past for demonstrating for AIDS research funding. He said some of his performances have featured nudity but there has been no nudity for about a decade.

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