Two weeks ago, The Whitney Museum of American Art cancelled its exhibition after obtaining Black artists work at a discounted price, which was initially indented to raise money for racial justice charities. The exhibition, “Collective Actions: Artist Interventions in a Time of Change,” planned to feature artists whose work focused on the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. Most of the work displayed was stolen from BIPOC artists, without their knowledge and without any credit given. As museums are beginning to reopen, artists and activists are fighting for a structural change in museum leadership and representation. The Whitney, one of New York City’s most renowned institutions, has become yet another example of the structural racism that continues to cohabitate within the art industry.
Now, several youth programs are working with their local museums to foster inclusivity in the art world. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s (MCA) leadership program, Teen Creative Agency (TCA), came forward when they discovered MCA’s police funding initiative. In an open letter, TCA urged the museum to invest in BIPOC artists and change their security models.
In an interview with Teen Vogue, Hashim Kysia, a TCA alum, said “The tactics of art museum security are discriminatory and taken from police tactics…I obviously look ‘other’ than the expected museumgoer, and I feel discrimination walking through exhibits and gift shops. It’s more than the MCA. I feel it at the Art Institute. When I went to MoMA, I was followed and told not to touch things when I wasn’t touching them.” Other initiatives such as NYC’s InterseXtions internship program with the Brooklyn Museum, explores gender expression and identity in the art industry, urging interns to speak with community leaders to push for a structural change. Akir Stuart, an InterseXtions intern, remarked on the program’s inclusivity, saying,
“NYC museums in general, I don’t feel there’s space for me, being a Black and queer person… The department gives authority to kids who normally don’t feel they have power anywhere else. It’s crazy to me all the stuff we get to do.”
Amidst the pandemic and ongoing racial injustices, these teen councils are holding museums accountable when it comes to inclusivity and leadership, expressing the pertinence of identity representation in the art industry.
Header image courtesy of Youth Teen Creative Agency website
More from BUST
Olivia Simonds is a graduate of Clark University with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in English literature and creative writing. Much of her work is inspired by long subway rides, her friendships, and the perpetual pulse of New York City, where she grew up and still lives today.
You can follow her on Instagram @oliviasimonds or on Twitter @livsimondss