Posts tagged ‘social change’

Fit and Making One’s Place in the Arts

 

The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it. – James Baldwin

2016-05-28 14.08.09

At the intersections, “Red Carpet” by Vaimoana Litia Makakaufaki Niumeitolu and Kyle Goen, CrossLines Culture Lab, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, May 2016               [see below for larger image of this work]

In academia and museum jobs people talk a lot about fit. Candidates have to be a “good fit” with colleagues. This isn’t about skills. Instead, the existing staff want to feel that you possess certain values that the organization has deemed essential. When the instructor in my teaching certificate course repeatedly emphasized “fit”, I became ill at ease. For me, “fit” sounded like another way to ostracize people who are not the traditional members of the club. I worried that I would not “fit” anywhere. I’m not from a white, middle-class, or affluent family with generations of folks with college degrees. My background is  basically the opposite of many new professors and art museum curators. My teacher, a very kind person, assured me that “fit” wouldn’t mean more marginalization. I would like to think that she’s correct. This work is important to me. Knowledge and art belongs to everyone.

As I engage critical race theory in my studies of visual and material culture, I often return to this issue of “fit.” I’ve found that many art museum professionals avoid topics they identify as “political.” Because they have placed issues concerning race and racism in this political/shun category, they ignore it. But my research centers on representations of race and the dynamics of institutional racism in the art world. Where does that put me? How can I “fit” within frameworks that reject the effects of race?

When I study reports on the lack of racial diversity in art museums in the U.S., I think about the role of “fit” in cultural gatekeeping. I also consider how most of our art institutions have been silent about the increased public attention to racialized state violence. Although various professional organizations and art museums have made statements in favor of marriage equality legislation and in opposition of recent gender discriminatory laws*, most have not stated “Black Lives Matter.” They have not, as Adrianne Russell, co-organizer of the #museumsrespondtoferguson initiative, poignantly noted, expressed that they care about African-Americans.

NikhilTrivedi-AdrianneRussell-BLM-7-7-16

Tweet by Nikhil Trivedi, citing Adrianne Russell, July 7, 2016

Is “fit” the issue once again? Is highlighting anti-black violence too “political”? Are problems affecting African-Americans not good “fits” with the missions of our arts organizations? Who are these organizations really for?

20160305_155241

Black Lives Matter banner above the doorway of The Church of the Redeemer, New Haven, CT, March 2016

Dealing with the rejection of one’s humanity on a regular basis is disheartening. When people of color enter museums they aren’t transported to oppression-free spaces separate from the world. If museum professionals are serious about increasing the number of people of color in the field, improving workplace culture is one of several factors that needs to happen.  As museum colleagues expressed at a recent workshop about the role of race in museum spaces, museum staff (rank and file as well as leadership) must “stop labeling the topics associated w/ people of color [as] “difficult/controversial/political.” True engagement with diverse publics will entail confronting dynamics of race within and outside of our institutions.

People committed to building equity in art museums have a lot of work to do. Art institutions are making some gestures in the right direction. But for the most part they are slow to change and aren’t employing critical race theory to address the historical and continued practices of white supremacy within our museums. Consequently, most fail to be good “fits” when it comes to working for social justice. But I am an optimist. I believe those of us working from the margins can make our place. We can fit in a world of our making.

 

A Few Tools

20160528_134330

“Red Carpet” by Vaimoana Litia Makakaufaki Niumeitolu and Kyle Goen, CrossLines Culture Lab, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, May 2016

The Biggest Obstacle to Diversity in Libraries, by B. Binaohan, August 13, 2016 (this applies to museums too)

CrossLines, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, arts event May 28-29, 2016, Washington, D.C.; featured intersectionality

A Critical Lens on Diversity and Inclusion in Museums: #museumsrespondtoferguson, by La Tanya S. Autry, Museums and Civic Discourse session, National Council on Public History, January 2016

Social Justice & Museums Resource List, crowd sourced, open google document initiated by La Tanya S. Autry, July 2015

 

 

* These acts tend to be brief statements circulated on institutional websites or social media platforms. While one might question the depth of this engagement, it does demonstrate a preference for addressing certain social issues.

*All photos are by the author.

 

 

Advertisements

August 16, 2016 at 3:22 pm Leave a comment

June 15th- Anniversary of the Duluth Lynchings & 2010 Remembrance Events

This weekend Duluth, Minnesota concludes the 2010 remembrance events to honor the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.

This multicultural commemoration focuses on the 1920 lynchings and highlights other local struggles against racial injustice.

June 12-  Film screening of Older Than America with discussion.   The film is about how the Indian boarding schools. For information on the film, see http://www.olderthanamerica.com.

June 14- Memorial service at grave sites of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie at Park Hill Cemetery.

June 15- Community gathers at Duluth jail and marches to the memorial.

June 15- Observance ceremony with speaker Susana Pelayo- Woodward, UMD Office of Cultural Diversity at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, 1st Street & 2nd Ave East.

Day of Remembrance observance with keynote speaker.
Events close with a candlelight vigil.

See the events section on Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial website for detailed information, http://www.claytonjacksonmcghie.org/Events.

PHOTOS ANYONE?: I need high resolution images of the memorial wall (especially the quotes) and the various ceremonies.  The photos will be used for the blog, flickr memorial group, PowerPoint presentations, and other educational outreach purposes.  If you attend the event and have photographs to share, please let me know by sending a comment or upload images to the group: American Lynching Memorials on flickr, http://www.flickr.com/groups/lynching_memorials/pool/.
I appreciate your assistance in helping to raise awareness of lynching memorials in the U.S.

June 11, 2010 at 12:12 am 2 comments

Website on Racial Reconciliation

If you’re interested in racial reconciliation programs in the U.S., you may want to review William Winter Institute’s web page: http://www.winterinstitute.org/pages/reg-alliance.htm.

From that page you can connect to a list of organizations working towards commemorating victims of racial violence and instituting positive social  change.

April 17, 2010 at 12:41 am Leave a comment


artstuffmatters

Artstuffmatters focuses on public culture in the arts- public art, photography, landscapes, museums, and more.

Search by Date

November 2017
S M T W T F S
« Oct    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Tweets on ArtStuff

  • RT @rebel19: I spoke out about racialized or micro-aggressive racism and was punished for it. The predatory behavior was ignored or accepte… 1 day ago
  • RT @rebel19: As a young black woman starting out as a producer for the prestigious Charlie Rose show, I had to gauge every day whether to r… 1 day ago
  • RT @eveewing: Love to everyone who wants to be with their family this week, but can’t. Love to those for whom “home” is not a safe or welco… 1 day ago

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,535 other followers

Flickr Photos