Culture& in collaboration with the Museums Association (MA) hosted a joint UK and US symposium on how our museums are responding to racism and what needs to happen next.
The tumultuous events that followed the May 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis shone a globally bright light upon all forms of racism and anti-Blackness, including its impact on museums and their communities. While the events of last summer may have faded in some memories, the issues raised remain current.
Culture& and the Museums Association reflected on what happened last year, and looked forward to the future. A UK and US panel of distinguished arts and culture leaders probed the statements of solidarity issued by various arts and heritage organisations in 2020, what they achieved since then, and what further changes need to be made.
UK panellists included Arike Oke, Managing Director at the Black Cultural Archives; Hassan Mahamdallie, diversity specialist and former Director of the Muslim Institute; and Rachael Minott, Chair of the Decolonising Working Group for the MA.
They were joined by US experts including Monica O. Montgomery, Curator of Special Projects + Programming at the Smithsonian Institution Arts + Industries Building; Ian Damont Martin, Executive Director of Inclusion & Belonging at the Art Institute of Chicago; and OnRaé LaTeal, Senior Manager of ARTLAB at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
The discussion was moderated by Culture&’s Chief Executive, Dr Errol Francis.
Image: England’s Heritage IV, Old Royal Naval College, 2006. Credit © Errol Francis. Courtesy Royal Museums Greenwich
Arike Oke is the Managing Director at Black Cultural Archives, the national heritage centre dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the histories of African and Caribbean people in Britain. She was previously Collections Development Archivist at Wellcome Collection and archivist for Rambert, Britain’s national company for contemporary dance. Arike sits on the board for the National Archive (UK)’s Unlocking Archives project and is also a member of BAFTA’s Heritage Board.
Hassan Mahamdallie is a specialist in diversity and equality in the arts and former Director of the Muslim Institute (2013-2017). An internationally known senior policy maker, workshop leader and trainer, he is the author of Arts Council England’s unique approach: The Creative Case for Diversity. With a background in theatre, Hassan is also a published writer, playwright, campaigner for race equality and expert in Muslim culture and thought.
Rachael Minott is Trustee of the Museums Association where she is the chair of the Decolonising Guidance Working Group. She champions collaborative practices and challenges the concept of neutrality in public spaces. Previous curatorial projects have included collaborations with the Horniman Museums and Gardens, Birmingham Museums Trust, London Transport Museum, Reading Museum and the Robert Sainsbury Library.
Monica O. Montgomery is the Curator of Special Projects + Programming at the Smithsonian Institution Arts + Industries Building. As an arts administrator and independent curator, she works at the intersection of equity, community and diversity in museums. She has curated many social justice themed exhibits, experiences and festivals with renowned organizations including the Brooklyn Museum. Monica is also the co-founder and strategic director of Museum Hue, which works to advance the visibility and viability of BIPOC in museums in the United States.
Ian Damont Martin is a writer and director by passion and a creative executive by trade. Ian is the Artistic Director of Haven Chicago, and the Executive Director of Inclusion & Belonging at the Art Institute of Chicago. Ian has worked with a number of arts and cultural institutions, including Enrich Chicago: a collaborative of arts, culture, and funding institutions collectively engaging in the work of anti-racist and racial equity organizing.
OnRaé LaTeal OnRaé LaTeal is a music producer, videographer and creative arts educator. OnRaé currently serves as Senior Manager of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s teen programs and digital arts studio, ARTLAB. Her most recent endeavour to merge the arts and social justice includes the Black Joy Experience, a compilation album of mainstream freedom songs and liberation chants she produced in conjunction with the national activist organization, Black Youth Project 100.