Artist Raoul Pacheco said he did not intend the artwork to be interpreted lewdly.
"They are entitled to their interpretation. That's part of the beauty of what art is," said Pacheco, an art professor at Augusta State University. "The problem is, the work got damaged while it was in their hands."
The 3-foot-by-6 foot scroll of painted paper was folded and crinkled with the paint chipping off when it was returned, Pacheco said.
Kroc officials based their decision to remove the artwork because it did not fit with family-friendly guidelines for the center, said Derek Dugan, the communications director for the center.
"It was very descriptive in the anatomy," Dugan said.
Pacheco was one of eight artists to be featured in an exhibit organized by The Art Factory, a group that has worked with the Kroc Center to develop its art curriculum.
The piece in question features a fictional character named Ott that Pacheco uses to tell a narrative throughout his art collection, he said.
According to Dugan, the art was displayed for no more than an hour and never viewed by the public. The Art Factory set up the exhibit July 15, the weekend of the center's "soft" opening for donors, he said.
After being removed from the wall, Pacheco's piece was placed in a storage closet in a locked office at the Kroc Center until a second review could be done, Dugan said.
Guidelines were given to the artists detailing the Salvation Army family-friendly mission, said Cindy O'Brien, the executive director of The Art Factory. The Kroc Center asked artists to use a theme of transformation in the pieces, she said.
Artists submitted statements to accompany their works by June 1 to The Art Factory, O'Brien said. To the director's knowledge, the Kroc Center reviewed the artists' statements.
"Art Factory only does family-friendly things anyways. We didn't see anything questionable or controversial," O'Brien said.
Pacheco said he received a call from The Art Factory on Thursday notifying him that the art had been taken down.