In July last year, American art curator Kelli Morgan resigned her post as associate curator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in Newfield, saying in a resignation letter that racism and discriminatory practices were rife throughout. the institution.
In February, Newfield chairman Charles Venable resigned amid outrage over a job offer for a museum director who would maintain his’ traditional, basic and white art audience ‘while s’ addressing a more diverse audience, such as ArtForum International reported at the time.
Morgan’s experience in Indianapolis, combined with previous conservative roles where she says she encountered racism, cemented her view that “quitting is part of the job.” That is to say, the work for the conservatives of color who “are interested in anti-racism, in the decentering of whiteness in [their] galleries and collective practices, ”she explains. A job that the Conservatives “are literally prevented from doing sometimes”.
Morgan, now an independent curator and museum specialist, calls the art museum work experience of most curators of the color “unspoken truth.” While museums around the world have expressed a desire for change, and many are taking action by expanding their collections and exhibitions to include a wider range of artists, the efforts, according to Morgan, are largely insufficient.
“It’s not something we don’t know is going on, it’s not something white leaders don’t know, but because of this culture of fear and silence, it’s the thing nobody likes to talk about because we don’t like Think of art museums as those very uncomfortable and somewhat dangerous places, ”she says.
A resource for curators
In the aftermath of her experience in Indianapolis, and during discussions with Judith Pineiro, Executive Director of the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC) Foundation, the AAMC founded the Global Professional Alliance for Curators of Color ( PACC), with the support of the Getty Foundation.
Pineiro says the idea for the alliance grew out of an internal association action plan that was part of her anti-racism work, and conversations she had with conservatives of color around the world, in addition to museum directors and foundation managers.
The idea was to create a central resource for conservatives early in their careers, who could provide them with the support they need to achieve their goals and stay on the ground, she said.
“Kelli’s experience is far too often extremely common,” says Pineiro. “You have curators hired because they are focused on one thing, and because they identify as black, they are told to do shows on black artists only and not to continue their academic work. At the same time, you can have a curator of ethnicity who identifies as Asian, who when he goes to study Italian Baroque art, everyone at the institution is confused and does not understand why they do not. not focus on their own culture. “
Often this is the result of institutions bringing in curators of color just so they can tick a diversity box.
“It continues to foster that sense of isolationism and disappointment on the ground, if you are not able to continue your academic work as you made very clear in your job interviews and in your doctorate and qu ‘they’re continually being cataloged,’ Piniero said. .
These are problems experienced by seasoned color curators, as well as those just starting out, she adds. The hope is that the alliance can provide a network and a forum for sharing experiences, as well as support when they need to ‘speak up and say’ no, that’s not what I do. do, ”says Piniero. “We are trying to break the cycle with this program. “
One step forward
One of the problems is that despite funding and diversity initiatives, curators of color don’t end up staying in institutions after they’re hired.
“I’ve had a lot of conversations over the past six months with some fairly high-profile curators of color and we’ve all been like, ‘Yeah, we’re done with these institutions. We have to find something else to do. We have to figure out how to do the job in different ways, ”she said.
The hope is that the alliance will provide the Tories with the support they need to stay and fight for change, Morgan says.
As a historian of critical culture, Morgan aims for structural change that leads to authentic exhibitions of work representing all artists, including women and artists of color, that tell honest stories of the history of the world. ‘art. But she knows that some color curators are “just art historians” and need support to do their jobs without feeling isolated.
This is a role the alliance can play.
PACC includes 30 emerging curators of color from around the world, each paired with another. Curators, who have between two and five years of professional experience, also have access to advisors, liaison, cultural resources and Tanya Odom, a Diversity, Equity, Access and Inclusion (DEAI) consultant.
The cohort, who will be together for 10 months, will meet regularly with Pineiro and Morgan, who acts as a conservation advisor and consultant. They will also receive an allowance.
“We recognize that a program will not completely change the field,” Pineiro said in a press release upon the PACC announcement. “But we hope that the program, along with all of our DEAI efforts, will take another step forward on the ground.”