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Muse/News: Art walks, Juneteenth reflections, and George Floyd’s eyes

SAM News

Jeff Totey of Seattle Refined has “100 Things To Do in Seattle Right Now (or Very Soon),” including an “art walk” in SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park, whose grounds are open to the public during this time.

Local News

South Seattle Emerald and Crosscut collaborated on a series of portraits of and reflections from Black Seattleites in honor of Juneteenth.

The Seattle Times’ Lewis Kamb shares all the details on how Capitol Hill’s Black Lives Matter mural came to be. Don’t miss Ken Lambert’s incredible drone image of the mural.

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig returned to her post at the paper in time to cover all the happenings at CHOP. But her arts & culture beat still goes on. Here, she reflects on the many eyes of George Floyd.

“When I’m inside CHOP, I feel like I’m being watched—by the nation, by police, by the government, by history, by those we are fighting for. The whittling away of Floyd’s other features, leaving just his eyes, seems to underscore that idea: Floyd is present, here, watching over us.”

Inter/National News

Last Friday, many around the nation commemorated Juneteenth; the holiday is now officially observed at SAM. Here’s a quick listen from 2017 of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson on why she thinks it should be an official national holiday.

Peruse these Artnet editors’ picks for virtual art events to attend this week.

The New York Times presents “Sources of Self-Regard,” self-portraits by Black photographers with an accompanying essay by Deborah Willis.

“As I look at these images, I can envision how the photographers shifted their focus to construct new works or culled their own archives to revisit ideas — seeking answers to their own questions about one’s sense of self and responsibility during this unspeakable time.”

And Finally

Drive-in movie theaters to visit this summer.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Muse/News: Taking action, what art does, and protest songs

The Seattle Art Museum believes that Black lives matter. We mourn the lives and say the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all victims of police brutality. We recognize that we cannot be silent, and we must act. You can read more of our recent responses here and here.

Last week, Stay Home with SAM visits the virtual Naramore Arts Show, talks powerful public art with Teresita Fernández, and reads a classic work of sci-fi and Afrofuturism with a partner institution, the Northwest African American Museum.

Local News

Lots of people are sharing resources; here’s The Stranger’s frequently updated list of resistance events, ways to donate, and other resources for combatting anti-Black racism locally

Bill Tsi’li’xw James, hereditary chief of the Lummi people and a master weaver, passed away on June 1. Barbara Brotherton, SAM Curator of Native American Art, was among those sharing remembrances.

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis has been sharing a weekly editor’s letter; this week, she reflects on the intersection of art and politics and “showing up for Black art and Black lives.”

“Music and art can reach across cultural barriers when it seems like nothing else will. In a 2019 interview with Crosscut, Donald Byrd acknowledged the importance he places on making work ‘related to social consciousness and the politics of being a Black person.’ But, he emphasized, ‘It still has to be a piece of art. It has to do the thing that art does.’”

Inter/National News

“This is a revolution”: Artnet’s Noor Brara spoke with 18 artists who have been protesting about what they saw in the streets. Some of them, such as Kambui Olujimi, have already created stunning works that respond to the moment.

“The people have learned to write with fire.” The Art Newspaper has an essay written by artist and activist Dread Scott on the worldwide uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd.

The New York Times’ Wesley Morris does that devastating thing he does, where he responds to a moment with a heartbreaking cultural analysis; this one finds its way to a personal catharsis when he suddenly hears a 1985 cover by Patti LaBelle in a different way.

“This country manufactures only one product powerful enough to interrupt the greatest health and economic crisis it’s probably ever faced. We make racism, the American virus and the underlying condition of black woe. And the rage against it is strong enough to compel people to risk catching one disease in order to combat the other — in scores and scores of American cities, in cities around the world.”

And Finally

Dread Scott’s essay is titled “America God Damn,” which references a 1964 protest song Nina Simone wrote in less than an hour; one its first performances was at Carnegie Hall in front of a mostly white audience.

Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: The Beginning, Ella Maurer, 12th Grade, Franklin High School, Naramore Arts Show.

A Message of Solidarity

The Seattle Art Museum believes that Black lives matter and stands in support of Black families, friends, colleagues, and communities across the country as they grieve and seek justice for the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all victims of police brutality. We mourn the lives lost and, as we say their names, we recognize that we cannot be silent.

Systemic and institutional racism pervades every corner of American life, including cultural institutions such as the Seattle Art Museum. SAM recognizes the inequities faced by Black Americans, and we acknowledge the work that SAM must do and the impact of our work on our community. Since the 2000s, SAM’s Education & Community Engagement Committee has helped guide SAM’s programming and community partnerships. We will continue to listen to this inspiring group of advocates as we make changes to better lead by example within our arts community and city to create a country where Black people and other people of color are not oppressed.

In 2017, the museum’s Equity Team and leadership integrated an equity statement of the museum’s official values into SAM’s strategic plan, which guides all we do. It reads:

We are responsive to cultural communities and experiences, and we think critically about the role art plays in empowering social justice and structural change to promote equity in our society. We are dedicated to racial equity in all that we do.

We know that we can do more. We must begin by looking at ourselves and working to uncover the structural biases within our own organization.

Art is a crucial way of sharing unique perspectives, reminding us of the past, and envisioning future possibilities. Throughout history, art has been used for education, revolution, politics, propaganda, emotions, subversion, and sharing transformative experiences. SAM believes that art always contains a message and cannot be neutral. We rely on our collection, exhibitions, and the artists we work with to reflect our institutional values and we can, and will, take tangible actions to enact necessary change in our society. 

We are committed to:

  • Striving for racial equity in our exhibitions, educational programs, hiring practices, and all activities at the museum
  • Sharing work by Black artists in our collection and in our communications. For the next week, we will not be promoting the museum on social media, in order to amplify the views of organizations, artists, activists, and individual Black voices
  • Continuing to increase the acquisition and exhibition of more works by artists of color
  • Featuring artwork by Black artists in the following exhibitions and installations in the next year:

John Akomfrah: Future History
Aaron Fowler: Into Existence
Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle
Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence
Storied Objects
Lessons From the Institute of Empathy

There are many ways to show support and solidarity at this moment. As a part of the Seattle art community, SAM would like to encourage you to support local Black-led arts organizations through donations and engagement. This list is by no means comprehensive and we encourage you to add to it in the comments.