Asheville artist responds to sexual harassment accusations

An image from a protest outside Jonas Gerard's art studio in Asheville. (Photo credit: Asheville Survivors Solidarity Network)

A well-known Asheville artist responded to allegations of sexual harassment on Thursday following a weekend protest.

News 13 reported in 2015 that Jonas Gerard was charged with sexual battery.

In a statement released Thursday, Dec. 21, he said that charge was dropped.

Gerard says six masked community activists gathered outside his gallery on Saturday, holding signs saying he assaulted multiple women.

In the statement he posted on Facebook, he said, in part, that each individual who filed a charge against him withdrew their charges and the criminal complaint voluntarily.

He also said, "I admit there are things I have said and done in the past that I'm not proud of today. For those things I wish to share my most sincere apology to anyone hurt by my actions."

Read Jonas Gerard's full statement:

This past weekend, on Saturday, December 16th, a group of six masked and costumed community activists gathered outside my gallery located at 240 Clingman Ave. in the Asheville River Arts District. They came on two separate occasions, each time carrying signs and banners and protesting and yelling loudly for about ten minutes while taking photos of themselves in front of my business. The signs they carried read, “Remove the Gag Orders” and “Multiple Women Harassed or Assaulted by Jonas Gerard.” I would very much like to respond to this group of activists (the same people whom I believe are posting angry comments about me on social media) and anyone else who saw the protestors or has read the social media comments. I hope that my statements here are received in the same spirit in which I give them: a spirit of hope for true listening on both sides, and with an eye toward healing, reconciliation and a desire for harmony.
I am aware of the anger and sentiment that this small group of people in our community have towards me. I have read their posts on Facebook and elsewhere. I witnessed their protest at my gallery this past weekend. I want them to know I hear them and have taken to heart the hurt and anger I hear in their voices. I sincerely hope that my reaching out will bring much-needed healing to our city, and bring a better understanding in this situation.
Several years ago, some EEOC charges were filed against my gallery by former employees, in the same way that hundreds of thousands of similar charges are filed through the EEOC against businesses in the U.S. One former employee, in addition to filing an EEOC charge, also filed criminal charges at the same time. All of those charges were resolved through the EEOC’s mediation process or through the complainants’ own private attorneys. As is typical in resolving these types of complaints, standard mutual confidentiality agreements were negotiated with the attorneys for the former employees and then voluntarily signed by all parties. The signs in last weekend’s protest stated, “Remove the Gag Orders.” Please understand no gag orders exist. Each individual who filed a charge against me received their own legal advice and counsel and withdrew their charges, and the criminal complaint, voluntarily.
I cooperated fully to resolve the matters to their satisfaction. Another sign today accused me of “sexual assault.” The criminal charge, which seems to resurface from time to time was dropped over two years ago. Please know I have never (I repeat, never) assaulted anyone. I am not a violent person. I am an expressive person. I value peace.
I would, however, like to take this opportunity to tell you I am 76 years old and I admit that there are things I have said and done in past years that I’m not proud of today. For those things, I wish to share my most sincere apology to anyone hurt by my actions. Mistakes were made several years ago, lessons were learned and since that time I have been singularly focused on becoming a better person.
I believe the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious matter. And, at the time of the charges described above, I underwent training and education as well as therapy and counseling to become more sensitive to the issue of sexual harassment and to become a better person and employer. There have been no new complaints since that time and I don’t expect there will be any future complaints.
Today at Jonas Gerard Fine Art, all of our staff members undergo sexual harassment awareness and sensitivity training each year. We conducted this training in 2017 and we will again offer training in 2018. All employees are also made aware of our harassment policy and the process by which employees can safely and confidentially raise any concerns they have in this area. It’s important to me that none of my employees are ever mistreated and that they all feel safe and protected.
As stated on my web site, the mission for my galleries and art is simple: “[Jonas Gerard Fine Art] is a place of service, a gallery atmosphere that is comfortable and people friendly. Within that space our mission is rooted in our expression of a world filled with love, gratitude, spontaneity and fearless creativity."
I sincerely hope that my candid sharing today can bring some much-needed peace and healing to those hurt and still angered by my actions years ago. Again, I offer my apologies to anyone I have directly or indirectly hurt. I send each one of you my heart-felt wishes for a blessed holiday season and a very happy 2018.
Jonas Gerard
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