Advisory Opinion No. 98-4

Re: Sandra Murphy Crowe, Esq.


The Petitioner, Ethics Officer for the Rhode Island Department of Administration, a state employee position, requests an advisory opinion on behalf of the Department as to whether it may allow its Arts Committee to display an exhibit of state employee artwork on state property, including the artists’ names and the prices.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Rhode Island Department of Administration Arts Committee may display an exhibit of state employee artwork on state property, provided that the displays simply state the artists’ names and do not include prices or signs indicating that the art work is for sale.

The Petitioner represents that the Arts Committee has previously exhibited the artwork of several private entities and artists on state property. Therefore, state employees are not being afforded special access for exhibition of their artwork, not available to other artists, by virtue of their status as state employees. The Petitioner also indicates that the artwork to be displayed will be selected by representatives from the State Council on the Arts. No state employees will act as agents or brokers for any of the displayed artwork. Should someone wish to purchase any of the displayed works they would have to contact the individual exhibitors directly.

Although past exhibitions of private entities and artists have included both the names of the artists and prices for the displayed items, the Commission concludes that where the artwork of state employees is exhibited, only the individual artists’ names may be displayed. No sale signs or prices may be included in the displays. To permit otherwise would constitute the use of state facilities to advertise for the private financial gain of state employees, other than that provided by law.

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Financial interest

Private employment