Equity at SAM: Furthering Our Collective Commitment

SAM aims to be transparent with what is happening behind the scenes at the museum as it moves forward with its important equity work. You may already be familiar with our internal Equity Team, a staff-driven, cross-departmental advisory group, has been working since 2016 to deepen SAM’s commitment to racial equity in all areas of the institution. Now, we want to share a major, six-month initiative that took place from August 2020 to January 2021: the Equity Task Force.

The goal of this task force was to build on SAM’s commitment to fostering equity and inclusion throughout the museum. Composed of SAM board members, staff, and members of the museum’s Education and Community Engagement Committee, it was chaired by board president Carla Lewis, board member Cherry A. Banks, and SAM’s lllsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, Amada Cruz. The task force as a whole represents a diverse cross-section of SAM staff and community members so that many perspectives could be brought to the table.

Over the course of six months, this group gathered virtually to brainstorm, comb through research, discuss ideas, and ultimately develop recommendations in four critical departments at the museum. We’d like to share some of the broad visions with you:

1.     Human Resources: Create a more inclusive work environment and increase representation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) at SAM through a focus on recruitment, hiring, and retention practices.

2.     Curatorial: Increase BIPOC representation in SAM’s collections, exhibitions, and gallery interpretation; further community collaborations; and expand the scope of programming.

3.     Development: Build inclusive fundraising and membership practices that center trust and authenticity to increase connections with BIPOC audiences.

4.     Communications: Better understand who our current audiences are and identify those communities where we can more effectively engage. Provide strategic guidance to departments across SAM in communicating equity priorities, goals, and progress both internally and externally.

These are summaries of the expansive, detailed timelines that were generated through this work. Departments are already implementing many of these initiatives as they continue planning and identifying resources for the long term.

Advancing racial equity at SAM is everyone’s responsibility. We want to reflect that commitment within the priorities and plans of every element across the institution. We recognize that this work never ends, and that we each play a role—including you—in creating a museum where everyone feels a powerful sense of belonging and can connect with the art and ideas on view.

Learn more about Equity at SAM here.

A version of this article was first printed in the June 2021 edition of SAM Magazine.

Image: “We Are All in This Together,” 2002, Mark Mumford, vinyl lettering produced from CD formatted for a MAC with both a FreeHand and an EPS version of the artwork, dimensions variable, Gift of Carlos Garcia and James Harris in honor of Kimberly Richter Shirley, 2003.60, ©️ Mark Mumford.

Muse/News: SAM Director Reflects, Portraits of Isolation, and Augusta Savage’s Crafted Life

SAM News

Amada Cruz, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, was interviewed by Megan Burbank of the Seattle Times for a Sunday feature on “how Seattle-area museums are weathering the pandemic.” Read her insights—and those from her colleagues—on the challenges and opportunities that arose.

“Pivoting to their own permanent collections is something museums may do more and more as they emerge from the pandemic with smaller operating budgets. ‘I think it’ll be really fun for viewers, and also for us, by the way. We on the staff will learn what we have in storage as well,’ said Cruz.”

A Jacob Lawrence work was featured in the Monday “Gallery” from Harper’s Magazine. And here’s Seattle University professor Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, reviewing Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle for Hyperallergic.

“Angled figures and cutting diagonal lines — as blood, guns, and swords — iterate across panels as do themes of battle, war, migration, labor, land theft, and peace.”

Don’t miss Emily Zimmerman’s interview with Barbara Earl Thomas for BOMB Magazine. Her exhibition at SAM has been extended and will now close January 2, 2022.

“This idea of disarming my viewer is key to my process. In order to really see, one’s expectations need to be interrupted. I situate my vision in the big arc of time and human spirit, not the present journalistic moment.”

Local News

“How a Seattle game of ‘telephone’ became a worldwide art event”: Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel on a Seattle art project gone global.

Gemma Alexander for the Seattle Times on MOHAI’s new exhibition, Stand Up Seattle: The Democracy Project.

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig reviews (Don’t Be Absurd) Alice in Parts, now on view at the Frye Art Museum through April 25.

“While the work is specific to the physical and mental pain Black women deal with every day (‘Alice has always been in her own personal pandemic,’ says Anastacia-Reneé), Don’t Be Absurd captures a portrait of isolation that urgently reflects the world we’re emerging out of.”

Inter/National News

Via Artforum: The African American Historic Places Project is a new initiative from the Getty Conservation Institute and the city of LA, whose goal is “identifying and preserving Black heritage landmarks throughout Los Angeles.”

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will undergo an expansion overseen by Safdie Architects,  to increase its footprint by 50 percent, reports Artnet.

“The Black Woman Artist Who Crafted a Life She Was Told She Couldn’t Have”: The New York Times’ Concepción de León on the sculptor Augusta Savage.

“Savage was an important artist held back not by talent but by financial limitations and sociocultural barriers. Most of Savage’s work has been lost or destroyed but today, a century after she arrived in New York City at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, her work, and her plight, still resonate.”

And Finally

Learn now to pronounce people’s names.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Muse/News: Amada Reflects, Black Santa, and the Deaf Experience

SAM News

All SAM locations are currently closed until further notice, but in the meantime, reflect on the state of the arts in Seattle with the Stranger’s new online series. It kicked off with an interview between Jasmyne Keimig and Amada Cruz, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, in which she shared some of the challenges and endeavors going on at the museum.

“The focus is on maneuvering this big institution through the toughest financial challenge it has ever had. For many museums across the country, this is an existential crisis. 30% of the art museums across the country could close, right? SAM is not in that position, but we’re certainly not immune to the challenges.”

Local News

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel celebrates the “cultural innovators” in the city who creatively responded to the challenges of the pandemic.

Mentioned in the article: New Archives, the local arts journal that launched this year. Catch up with a recent review by Kym Littlefield of Algorithm: Archetype, Christopher Shaw’s show at the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM).

Also at NAAM: Black Santa returns! Seattle Times photographer Bettina Hansen was there to capture the annual tradition, which went virtual this year. She spoke with the museum’s executive director, LaNesha DeBardelaben.

“We have to hold on to our children and protect our joy,” DeBardelaben said. “We are not derailed by the challenges we have faced this year. This is just a glimmer of hope and light in what has been a very difficult year for our community and our nation.”

Inter/National News

Art & Object is just in time with a list of “7 Films About Art to Beat the Winter Blahs.”

Join critic and historian Hal Foster as he contemplates art and lockdown for Artforum’s December print edition.

Artnet’s Kate Brown speaks with Christine Sun Kim about Trauma, LOL, the artist’s exhibition of drawings at François Ghebaly in Los Angeles.

“Kim is fascinated with phrases that can have multiple definitions, that can be translated and mistranslated by different audiences. Her new works illustrate the complicated nature of trauma within Deaf experience—something she says is ‘layered’ due to a lifetime of living in a ‘hearing world.’”

And Finally

Meet Noor and Aziz.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Natali Wiseman

Muse/News: A journey to Amerocco, book nerds, and environmental art

SAM News

The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley reported on the huge financial impacts of the coronavirus on local arts organizations. He spoke with SAM director Amada Cruz.

“Despite this, Cruz said SAM has been able to preserve all of its 217 staff jobs through June, with a combination of executive pay cuts and a $2.8 million loan from the CARES Act.”

Nancy Kenney of the Art Newspaper also reported on the payroll loan program and the financial status of US museums, mentioning SAM.

This week, Stay Home with SAM offered Earth Day tips and an art project inspired by El Anatsui, introduced the SAM Book Club’s latest pick (Octavia Butler!), and explored the in-between identities of Aaron Fowler’s Amerocco.

The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley included details on Stay Home with SAM in his round-up of “the most intriguing streaming and online arts events” for the week.

And Geekwire’s Lisa Stiffler on the “digital lifeline” provided by local arts organizations, including Stay Home with SAM.

Local News

Special to the Seattle Times, writer Sarah Neilson connects with six creatives on what inspires them about Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.

Stefan Milne of Seattle Met looks at two “ambitious” streaming events on the horizon, and whether they can fill the void for what would have been a busy summer of festivals and fundraising.

Crosscut Brangien Davis has her weekly editor’s letter, with lots of arts recommendations and on Seattle’s popular Silent Reading Party, which has gone remote.

“At chapter breaks, I’d glance up to check in on my fellow book nerds, who were reading while sipping a drink, rocking a baby or petting an insistent cat. It felt so nice to go to a party — even one that’s silent and virtual — where people allow a camera into their private rooms, just to read and be together.”

Inter/National News

Muse/News recommends: a streamable documentary on Hilma af Klimt, The Rubin Museum of Art’s Daily Offerings, and, well, all the things the Artnet editors recommend.

For Earth Day, Artsy explores “10 Artists. . .Making Urgent Work about the Environment,” including John Akomfrah.

Phillips’ blog talks with art world leaders for their series, How We’re Adapting. Bobbye Tigerman, a curator at LACMA, shares her new Zoom background and thoughts for the future.

“This experience has stimulated my thinking about the role that museums can play for those who are not physically able to visit them, whether for health, economic, or other reasons. I wholeheartedly believe in the transformative experiences by a physical encounter with a work of art, but when that is not feasible, how else can we offer authentic engagement to our visitors near and far?”

And Finally

Test Kitchen Hive, assemble.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Natali Wiseman

Muse/News: The art of Mingei, Kusama lost and found, and background

SAM News

The Crosscut team features chill events that will help you escape the hubbub of the holidays, including a silent disco party, a bonsai solstice, and a new SAM installation of elevated craftworks, Exceptionally Ordinary: Mingei 1920–2020.

The Seattle Review of Books is asking local luminaries, “if you could give everyone in Seattle one book as a gift this holiday season, what book would you choose and why?” Here are selections from Amada Cruz, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO.

Local News

After 40 years, the Pike Place newsstand is closing. Your final chance to buy a magazine, a pack of gum, or a tote is December 31.

Moira Macdonald and Bethany Jean Clement of the Seattle Times take their “Dinner at a Movie” series to the ballet. Mentioned: mouse cookies, orange-flame tutus, and all the adorable children in bows.

Go see Paul Rucker’s Forever at Greg Kucera before it closes on Saturday. The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig wrote about this “compelling” show of 15 “commemorative stamps” that feature the faces of Civil Rights-era figures.

“While remembering people like Pratt or Mississippi activist Medgar Evers by erecting a bronze statue or naming a park after them is also meaningful and important, there’s something about the domesticity and “everyday-ness” of a face on a stamp that’s just as appealing. It carries emotional power.”

Inter/National News

Researchers from University College London (UCL) studying aging found that “people who engaged in the arts more frequently had a 31% lower risk of dying early when compared to those who didn’t.”

The “inside-out” trend continues: Nina Siegal for the New York Times on Rotterdam’s Boijmans van Beuningen Museum and its forthcoming “Depot,” which will house completely open-to-the-public collection storage.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum found four small paintings by Yayoi Kusama in a manila envelope. Can you imagine?!

“I got an email saying ‘You need to come look at this right now!’” said [Melissa] Ho in a phone conversation.

And Finally

Whatever you celebrate, don’t forget your background singers.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Exceptionally Ordinary: Mingei 1920–2020, Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Nina Dubinsky.

Muse/News: Café con leche, Kenny G, and ancient art discovered in Sulawesi

SAM News

Amada Cruz, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, was interviewed by Puget Sound Business Journal. She shared her vision for museums, her morning routine of café con leche and public radio, and other fun facts.

“We should think of museums as civic spaces where all kinds of people can meet, convene, have a shared experience and celebrate our shared humanities. That’s more important now than ever.”

“She speaks five languages — ‘three of them badly.’”

How’s your holiday shopping going? The Seattle Times recently shared their Holiday Gift Guide; among their recommendations for gifts for men is a SAM Shop-exclusive, a Seattle edition of the chic reusable water bottle, Phil the Bottle.

Local News

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores interviewed Kenny G. Enough said.

“The Terminal 86 Grain Facility Is Hideous. It Must Be Painted” declares Gregory Scruggs in the Stranger. He argues that the facility near the Olympic Sculpture Park is the only “loose end” in the plan for the downtown waterfront.

The Seattle Times’ Scott Greenstone on Collaboration on Canvas, a new show at CORE Gallery, an exhibition of collaborative paintings by homeless people, social workers, and volunteers.

“It was community, and a bunch of women sharing space and time, and doing something together,” Giller said. “It was different every time, but it was always a good feeling.”

Inter/National News

From Artforum’s December print edition, here are 34 artists reflecting on their favorite exhibitions and events of 2019—including Natalie Ball on Guadalupe Maravilla and Judy Chicago on John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea.

Artnet’s Katie White on Homage to the Great Latin-American Masters at Houston’s Art of the World Gallery; the exhibition explores the complexity of classifying borderless Latin American art.

An archaeological study of dozens of caves on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has turned up visionary examples of art—perhaps the oldest known figurative art made by modern humans.

“Scrambling up a fig tree vine, he found his way into a small grotto. Its far wall bore a panel, painted with a red ocher pigment. When Aubert saw it, he was astounded. ‘I thought, wow, it’s like a whole scene,’ he says. ‘You’ve got humans, or maybe half-human half-animals, hunting or capturing these animals … it was just amazing.’”

And Finally

The Cloud Appreciation Society.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Natali Wiseman

Muse/News: A new leader for SAM, Lorna’s dark paintings, and Frida’s voice

SAM News

Last week, SAM announced that Amada Cruz has been chosen as the museum’s new Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, succeeding Kimerly Rorschach who is retiring in September. Brendan Kiley of the Seattle Times had the exclusive. Brangien Davis of Crosscut and Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger also both interviewed Amada.

And everyone else shared the news, including ARTNews, Artforum, Artnet, and Seattle Met. Even Representative Pramila Jayapal was eager to welcome Amada to Seattle!

Oh yeah: We also opened our major summer exhibition last week! Seattle Times photojournalist Alan Berner was there with a sneak peek of the beauty that is Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement.

And Seattle Magazine’s June issue features a round-up of “must-see” area museums—including, of course, SAM.

Local News

The future site of Capitol Hill’s AIDS Memorial Pathway will be activated this summer and beyond with temporary artworks and performances—including a series of dance performances curated by SAM’s Public Engagement Associate, David Rue!

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis on Discover + Disrupt at the Center for Architecture and Design; the show features work by art collective Electric Coffin that imagines “a more artful public cityscape.”

The Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald on the controversy surrounding Penguin’s new edition of John Okada’s novel “No-No Boy.” UW professor Shawn Wong originally fought to have the book published and disputes the new edition.

“The publishing history of ‘No-No Boy’ is as important as the book itself,” he said, remembering how he would sell copies of the original CARP edition out of the trunk of his old Mustang in the 1970s. “To publish the book without acknowledging that publishing history is publishing a very incomplete story.”

Inter/National News

“Dark times, to me, mean dark paintings”: The New York Times’ Siddhartha Mitter speaks with Lorna Simpson about her new show, which sees the artist continuing to work in ever-new mediums, including painting.

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone on the Delaware Art Museum’s plans for a reinstallation of much of its permanent collection and how they’re engaging the community in their prototyping process—including Post-Its!

The Guardian’s Nadja Sayej on a “groundbreaking” exhibition of work by Native women at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The show features a loan from SAM’s collection: Marie Watt’s Blanket Stories.

“90% of Native art is made by women. Native artists know this. It’s just non-Native people who haven’t recognized that.”

And Finally

Is this Frida Kahlo’s voice?

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: Natali Wiseman
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