When art fought the law and the art won.

EmpowerU Studio at Frame USA
225 Northland Blvd
Cincinnati, Ohio 45246
Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Why the Jury Verdict of Not Guilty was Correct.  When the Mapplethorpe photos arrived by truck on March 28, 1990, Cincinnati had a widely held and mostly earned reputation as one of the most conservative cities in America.  Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. was waiting for the photographs. In his mind, the photographs were smut, not art.  A collection of challenging photographs and difficult questions about sex and sacrilege, art and obscenity, politics and polemics.   (Simon Leis, Jr. shown below).

The art show, titled The Perfect Moment, opened on a chilly April morning in 1990, and among the first people through the door of the Contemporary Arts Center were nine members of a grand jury who viewed the 175 photographs and deemed seven of them to be not just offensive, but criminal.  Eventually, the question of what free speech is and what is too much would be heard in a Municipal Court room   After a week of explicit and evocative photographs and expert testimony, a jury went into its room for what was expected to be a long haul and a certain outcome.  (Robert Maplethorpe shown below).


H. Louis Sirkin, the attorney representing the CAC and Barrie, said at the time of the decisions: “It’s so intellectually wrong, it’s incredible.” Sirkin continued: “All I can tell you is, if we get an acquittal, we’re absolutely brilliant.”


Barbara Holwadel is a newly elected member of the Ohio Republican Party State Central Committee.  She ran for election as a reform candidate.   Barbara will give us an update of the state of the Ohio Republican Party which is a follow-up to the class EmpowerU featured on February 09, 2022 on possible Corruption in the Ohio Republican Party.   Barbara will speak from 7:10-7:30 PM.


 Speaker Bio:

H. Louis Sirkin is one of the nation’s preeminent First Amendment and criminal defense attorneys. Over more than 50 years of practice, Sirkin has consistently defended the free speech and constitutional rights of countless individuals and businesses, including adult entertainment establishments, museums, artists, activists, and ordinary citizens in all types of cases. Lou is both a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the American Board of Criminal Lawyers.

Born in Cincinnati, Sirkin obtained both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Cincinnati. He entered private practice and quickly earned a reputation as an effective civil rights lawyer. He achieved national prominence in 1990 when he successfully defended the director of the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati against obscenity charges for displaying the nude artwork of Robert Mapplethorpe. The controversy was later depicted in the Golden Globe-winning movie Dirty Pictures (2000). He has served as President of the First Amendment Lawyers Association and the Greater Cincinnati Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Sirkin is a true believer and has distinguished himself as a compassionate mentor, a sought-after lecturer, and a tireless advocate. He has represented persons whose message was completely contrary to his own beliefs and has risked both his career and his physical safety to do so. He was once escorted out the rear door of the courthouse to avoid being assaulted by individuals who opposed his clients. But perhaps Sirkin’s most notable accomplishment was his 2002 victory before the United States Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition.

In addition, he has defended on appeal numerous individuals on death row. In total, he has handled more than 125 appeals in civil and criminal cases.

Sirkin frequently lectures to students at the country’s top universities, participating in panels at Harvard University, New York University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Michigan, and Northern Kentucky University, to name a few. He has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati, where he taught habeas corpus law and a First Amendment seminar.


Born and raised in Anderson Township. She is a graduate of Anderson High School then Wilmington College with a B.S. in Business. Believing the American dream is under siege from politicians of both parties, she got involved in the struggle to fight the ever-expanding size and scope of government. 
Barbara was elected Precinct Executive and subsequently Ward Chair of the party (2010-2018) in Madeira and always made sure there were people working the polls on Election Day. She has been active in local groups such as the Ohio Battleground Alliance, and the Hamilton County Victory Centers.  She has run for State Central Committee and Madeira City Council. 
Barbara’s research into the economic drain of mass transit and the deceptive nature of Issue 7 inspired her to fight to defeat it by educating voters. She’s grateful to the hard-working team of volunteers that have stood outside in the cold at the Board of Elections during early voting.