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MAKING WAVES: A Reflection on Representation

June 5, 2020 | Allyson Hitte | Press Room, Press Room/Blog

The mission of the Monterey Museum of Art is to cultivate curiosity in the visual arts and engage community with the diversity of California art – past, present, and future.  The events of the past week surrounding the tragic murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many more have led me to really reflect on that mission statement and how we as an institution are achieving it.

Committing ourselves to the diversity of California art can mean so many things. It can mean diversity in time period, artistic style, medium, artist gender, artist race, and the list goes on. While our Museum collection exhibits great diversity in medium and style, our lack of diversity in the race of our artists has become painfully evident. Like many museums, the majority of the works in our collection were created by white male artists. We will not stand for that. In 2018, we launched our Year of the Woman initiative, beginning our journey to examine our combined efforts of collecting art since 1960.  We have since pledged ourselves to increasing the racial diversity of the artists we collect, with a focus on dramatically increasing the acquisition of works by artists of color. Adding these pieces to our collection is an investment in diversity and is essential to keeping our institution relevant in a world where equal representation and equal opportunity must be the standard.

Museums are given a unique position of trust in our communities. Communities trust us to care for their stories, their heritage, and their place in history.  We cannot therefore remain neutral in addressing issues that plague our society.  We must speak out against racism, violence, and hatred endured by Black Americans and people of color.  Our spaces must be a place where all can see their stories reflected back to them through the arts.  We must be a place of inclusion that fosters curiosity, creativity, and representation for all.

Anyone that knows me knows that I love feedback. I love to talk to members of our community about how they truly feel the Museum is doing.  I extend that invitation again to all, and especially to members of the black community. Right now, we have the opportunity to reexamine our mission and challenge ourselves to keep learning, keep listening, and to do better. The entire MMA staff are committed to making a positive and tangible change, and we look forward to sharing our plans with you in the coming weeks. We know now more than ever the power of representation and when the time comes for our galleries to open again, we hope they are changed for the better – safer, more inclusive, and truly a representation of the diversity of California art.

Yours in Solidarity,